If there was any doubt about the importance of the Hispanic vote this election year, President Obama laid it to rest with his recent, aggressive courtship of Latino voters. But this month also provided fresh warnings to the Obama campaign that Hispanic voters, despite their growing numbers, aren't all that interested in turning out to vote.
The evidence can be drawn from the House primaries that took place in states with significant Hispanic populations over the last month, particularly California, New York, and Texas. In contests from Southern California to Spanish Harlem, Hispanic candidates suffered political disappointments because of low turnout from their own voters.
The biggest setback for Hispanic representation took place in Texas, where Latinos fueled the population growth in the state over the last decade. But it's unlikely they will gain more seats in Congress even with four new congressional districts. While 38 percent of Texas voters are Hispanic, it's likely that only six of the state's 36 House districts (17 percent) will be represented by a Hispanic member of Congress in 2013.
In the state's primaries, several Hispanic candidates suffered several stinging defeats, largely because of low levels of Latino participation. Their most notable setback took place in a new Fort Worth-area seat specifically drawn to elect a minority member of Congress. But former state Rep. Domingo Garcia, a Democrat, wasn't able to take advantage of the district's sizable Hispanic population, which makes up nearly two-thirds of the district (and 39 percent of its voting-age population) and finished 12 points behind Democratic state Rep. Marc Veasey, who is African-American. Only about 18,000 registered Democrats showed up to vote, an anemic turnout level far below the rates in other districts featuring competitive Democratic primaries. Garcia is the heavy underdog in the July 31 runoff.