With the race for the White House becoming increasingly close, the winner of the election may ultimately be determined by each campaign's ability to get people to the polls and the vote of Latin Americans in the U.S. in particular could be the determinate factor.
Casual observers of the election may automatically assume that Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton has the Latino vote locked down due to her competitor’s racist comments about Mexicans. Polls certainly indicate a strong dislike for Republican candidate Donald Trump among Latinos, but that does not necessarily translate into support for Clinton.
The former secretary of state has her own complicated history with the Latin American community. As secretary of state, she worked to consolidate the 2009 coup in Honduras, causing the country to descend into violence and instability, a situation that it has been unable to emerge from since.
Her support for the coups in Honduras and refusal to condemn the 2012 coup in Paraguay, served to prove that a Clinton government would be willing to engage in intervention in the region, a non-starter for many Latinos who fled U.S.-backed dictatorships in the region.
Trump's campaign pledge to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border has also drawn sharp rebuke from many Latino leaders. But Clinton, while serving as Senator for New York, voted for then-President George W. Bush's Secure Fence Act in 2006. That act sought to build hundreds of miles of fence along the southern U.S. border, a plan not too dissimilar from Trump's campaign promise.
Latinos do tend to lean Democratic and they seem to favor Clinton heavily over Trump. According to one survey, some 58 percent support Clinton compared to 19 percent for Trump.
The Clinton campaign is aware it needs Latinos to vote for her to win the election. As a result, Clinton has filled her campaign schedule with targeted appearances meant to court voters in specific demographics.
On Saturday, Clinton started the day by stopping by the West Miami Community Center, a Cuban-American neighborhood, with telenovela star Jencarlos Canela, a Miami native of Cuban descent.
She then visited her campaign's office in Little Haiti where there is a large concentration of Haitian-American residents.
Earlier this week, in a U.S. election first, Democratic U.S. vice presidential nominee Senator Tim Kaine held a rally where he addressed voters entirely in Spanish. His speech was aimed directly at Latino voters.
“Latinos have always shaped this country... from your service in the military, to your spirit of entrepreneurship… to your presence on the Supreme Court. And by 2050, communities of color will represent the majority of our population. So of course Latinos will help shape the future of America because you are the future of America,” Kaine told the Phoenix crowd.
Early voting in Nevada and Florida seems to indicate a large turnout of Latinos in this election, though early voting trends do not always correlate with similar results on election day.
Nationwide, among voters who have cast early ballots, Clinton leads Trump by about 8 points. However, at the same point in the 2012 race, President Barack Obama had a lead of 11 points among early voters over Republican rival Mitt Romney.
In Florida, where the candidates are tied at 47 percent, Clinton leads by 8 points among early voters. In 2012, Obama led by about 15 points.
Historically, voter turnout amongst Latinos has been lower than the national average.
However, pundits, drawing on early voting results in states with sizable Latino populations, are now speculating that Latinos may pull off a “surprise” and vote en masse on Tuesday.
In a recent interview with La Jornada, Antonio Gonzalez, president of the William C. Velazquez Institute, said the Latino electorate is “hyper-mobilized.”
His institute calculates a 25 percent increase in voter turnout among Latinos.
“Can we save Hillary? It is not known, but the Latino vote is playing a bigger role since for now the African-American and youth vote are still participating at levels lower than four years ago,” Gonzalez told La Jornada.
The Clinton campaign is relying on a coalition of minority voters to help her against Trump but other communities are not highly motivated either.
Trump now has a plausible route to victory, especially if there is a sharp fall in turnout among African-Americans from the levels of the 2012 election.
Clinton does not enjoy the same support among Black voters as Obama, the first Black U.S. president. Diminished support among Black voters, coupled with a large drop in black turnout, would spell doom for Clinton.
If Black Democratic turnout drops by 15 points nationally, for example, Clinton’s odds of winning drop to about 72 percent, according to the Reuters/Ipsos States of the Nation project.
Even a 10-point drop in Black Democratic turnout coupled with a 5-point increase among white Republicans would flip the race to Trump, the project found.
Should that 10-point drop in Black Democratic turnout come to pass, the race would most certainly come down to the Latino vote, as they would need to offset that loss of votes.
However, that is dependent on Latinos being repulsed enough by Trump to want to vote for Clinton.
Ultimately, that may be enough.
A statement from the organization Latinos for Bernie, which backed leftist Senator Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary, captures the perspective many voters have in this election.
“We abhor Hillary Clinton. But, she is the only one we can keep in check. Grab a clothespin, plug your nose, hold your breath, and vote for Hillary Clinton. Our children and mother earth cannot afford a Trump presidency.”