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Latina moms influential in election, but want more answers
First lady Michelle Obama campaigns in Florida Tuesday.
July 11th, 2012
07:55 AM ET

Latina moms influential in election, but want more answers

By Rose Arce, CNN

(CNN) - In the battle for the soccer mamis, let’s just say Tuesday was a gooooooooooal for the Obama campaign. But perhaps not so great for the mamis.

'Soccer mamis' could affect general election

The president’s campaign offered up Michelle Obama to talk to CNN contributor Maria Cardona. It was live streamed on Mamiverse, a blog for Latinas and their families. The blog is where Cardona and I, along with others, contribute various perspectives.

Since Latinos represent 55% of overall U.S. population growth, and their children account for nearly a quarter of new births, the Latina mama is the go-to gal for influencing Latino voters. Just ask anyone in Latino marketing or politics. Or just turn on Spanish language television, where mamis are targeted relentlessly because of their influence on everything from family decisions on health care to the type of breakfast cereal to purchase.

“Latinas are the ones that drive their home economy, what gets purchased, what schools their kids go to, what churches to go to,” said Elaine de Valle, who edits a portal for English-dominant Hispanics called Voxxi. “While it may be portrayed on film as a patriarchal society, it’s a matriarchal society ... they’re looked at because of the influence they have with their family, friends and neighbors. Women share more than men, they talk about it … they share with their families.”

And Latinas vote in higher numbers than Latinos.

Just one catch here.

The Obama campaign isn’t selling breakfast cereal. They’re peddling a presidential candidate to a population facing 11% unemployment and a record number of deportations. This is a community that reports they are most likely–more than 40% –to be uninsured.

There are some hard questions to ask about how the president’s policies are going to improve the lives of mamis and their families.

But in the Mamiverse discussion Tuesday, what the mamis got was President Barack Obama’s wife being interviewed by a Democratic consultant, accompanied by a Latina from the group Latinos for Obama, a cookbook writer and two moms who shared agreement on topics such as obesity, health care and eating together as a family.

“Doing this can get you picked up by a lot of different places as an interview,” said professor Matt Barreto, who studies race and ethnicity as a political scientist at University of Washington. “But it’s really an outreach opportunity.”

It was an outreach opportunity that did not include Ann Romney and came on a day when presidential candidate Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama skipped an opportunity to speak to a broad audience of Latinos at the National Council of La Raza conference. It was the first time no presidential candidate has attended.

“It shocked me that they wouldn’t address this crowd,” said de Valle, the editor.

Right after the “chat”, Michelle Obama was scheduled to speak at Barbara Goleman Senior High School in Miami Lakes, Florida, over the objections of local Republicans. The school is 93% Hispanic and, though school is not in session, that’s a lot of potential Latino mamis in a swing state. This is clearly an opportunity for the campaigns to speak to the mami demo but not necessarily an opportunity for the mamis to speak back.

“It’s a market they pretty much already have so I don’t know why they’re speaking to the choir so much,” said Elaine de Valle. “… The community has a lot of overlap to other communities they want, like the middle class.”

CNN contributor Ana Navarro, a GOP political strategist who worked for the 2008 John McCain campaign, said these kind of outreach efforts are smart because they elicit friendly questions, not tough policy questions.

“Michelle Obama is a wife who is supportive of her husband. It wouldn’t be fair to ask her or Ann Romney about policy,” she said.

Navarro thinks both campaigns would be smart to give Latinos more opportunities to get to know them as people. Either wife, she said, could tell them what these men are like, particularly Romney, who “Latinos just don’t feel like they know him.”

De Valle believes that Latinas are being fed comfort food, rather than information.

“They’re speaking to the converted for sure,” she said. “Obama needs voters to get fired up, that’s what today was about in Miami and the Mamiverse thing.”

De Valle attended the Miami school event where the first lady spoke Tuesday.

In a recent poll of Hispanics in five battleground states, respondents said immigration was the most important issue facing the Latino community that Congress and the president should address. The economy and jobs followed as issues.

That same poll showed 67% of those voters approving of the job Obama is doing. In previous elections, Republicans, dating back to President George H.W. Bush, have said that getting more than 30% of the national Latino vote could be enough for them to take battleground states.

President George W. Bush drew an estimated 40% of the vote in the 2004 presidential election. In the 2008 election, Obama’s largest margins of victory among Latinos were in swing states such as Florida and New Jersey, according to Pew Hispanic Center. This election year, the most recent Florida poll by Latino Decisions has Obama leading Romney 53% to 37%.

In 2008, Obama carried 67% of the Latino vote nationally.

To win that vote, Navarro said: “I think both candidates need to give some specifics on how they’re going to improve the unemployment rate. I want more specifics on how they’re going to address foreclosures. What are they really going to do about immigration? Romney needs to say what he is really doing, and Obama needs to explain why people should believe he’s going to do anything when he didn’t before.”

Opinion: Obama, Romney make the same mistake on Hispanics

But Navarro points out that both candidates will soon have to answer some questions of their own. Obama has given interviews to major Spanish-language reporters, and she believes Romney will have to eventually as well.

“I don’t think in 2012 you can go through a presidential campaign without sitting down with a major Hispanic journalist,” she said.

Latinos tweeting their issues, ideas to the top

So, in our suenos, what sorts of tough questions might a mami ask of the two guys that want to rule their country?

Here’s one for the president that might better reflect what studies say the mamis want to know: 

President Obama, you have deported more people on immigration violations than any president in U.S. history. You say your administration targets illegal immigrants who were also accused of other criminal behavior, but Syracuse University's TRAC project, which crunches immigration data obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, has consistently found that deportations of criminals constitute a small portion of deportations. Data shows that most people are deported solely for having entered the country without a visa. Who do you want to stay and who do you want to go?

That would naturally lead to asking Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, what he means when he says he favors increasing legal immigration for talented foreigners:

Gov. Romney, are you only talking about foreigners who pay steep tuitions at U.S. colleges and want to stay? Or does that include the particularly terrific caregiver or the construction or farm worker in an area short on labor? If it’s the former, will white collar Americans be happy with their country giving visas to foreigners who will compete with them for jobs requiring high tech or higher education such as doctors, tech people and businessmen?

Rene Alegria started the Mamiverse blog targeting mamis after doing marketing research that showed Latina moms have enormous influence over how their community makes decisions on things such as buying and core beliefs. That demographic, he says, often are family and kid focused and make big dinner-table pronouncements about political issues.

So events such as the Mamiverse chat seem to offer an opportunity to give this demographic some real information.

But instead, Michelle Obama assured the semicircle of sympathetic Mamiverse Latinas that “Barack” eats dinner with his own family and has never missed a parent-teacher conference, that “there's only one person out there right now that has a vision that we share and is going to be fighting for us every day.”

It isn't hard to guess who she might be talking about.

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Filed under: Immigration • Latino in America • Politics
soundoff (21 Responses)
  1. Jorge

    Every third comment here seems either disparagingly speculative or openly insulting to a minority, yet CNN chooses to post them while it failed to post my historically factual explanation of why us minorities choose to self-segregate. Does this respond to journalistic bias of some sort or does it very much seem that way???

    July 13, 2012 at 9:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Joanna

      @ Jorge – You "choose" to self-segregate, at the exclusion of others, and that's ok; but were someone to TELL you to "stick with your own," then it would be discrimination/racism, would it not? It can't be both ways, and yet somehow it is.

      July 13, 2012 at 10:56 am | Report abuse |
      • Jorge

        We have been "invited" to "stick to our own" so consistently throughout the nation's history, that we've actually cottoned to the benefits of it. The definition of "our own" will elude those who are racially inclined, though.

        July 16, 2012 at 9:22 am | Report abuse |
  2. Joanna

    No wonder we have so many issues in this country - we segregate ourselves for EVERYTHING. Why is this woman concerned with a "Latina vote"? Aren't we all just humans, all living in America with basically the same needs and desires, i.e. good job opportunities, safe schools for our children, affordable healthcare, etc.?

    July 12, 2012 at 8:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Tom in CT

      thank you for keeping it real

      July 12, 2012 at 9:27 am | Report abuse |
  3. morgan

    I find myself wondering if the latino women who are now courting the democrats are going to have a bout of conscience when they enter the voting booth. Most latinos I know are catholic. They are taught by the church that abortion is evil from their childhood. The democratic party believes taxpayer funds should be allowed to assist abortion clinics. So, how can a catholic women, regardless of ethnicity pull that democrat lever in the voting booth?

    They better leave the voting place and run right over to the church and have confession for supporting abortion.

    July 12, 2012 at 12:57 am | Report abuse |
  4. Cherry

    Well said....thank you.

    July 11, 2012 at 10:58 pm | Report abuse |
  5. George Noory

    This is completely true. Remember that this was a civilian program rather than a military program so that the US government would not violate any international treaties. I believe that the Greada Treaty was also involved (signed between Eisenhower and the Greys)

    July 11, 2012 at 10:11 pm | Report abuse |
  6. WHAT?

    Do you really have high expectations of either Barack or Michelle Obama? Pity if you do.

    July 11, 2012 at 7:43 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Alex

    Everybody is welcome and has a right to stay in this country even if you are not a descendant of original Spanish colonists or Mexican settlers of more than 400 years ago. Everybody else is also welcome but don't show a lack of respect for the people who have been here long before your ancestors arrived.

    July 11, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • SilentBoy741

      You mean the way the Spaniards respected the Aztecs and the Mayans?

      July 11, 2012 at 7:13 pm | Report abuse |
      • Jorge

        Yup, kinda like the way the anglo settlers respected the Northern Native American nations.

        July 13, 2012 at 8:48 am | Report abuse |
  8. Citizen

    Please break down the data who paid the hospital costs for these latinas when they gave birth.

    What percentage of the time did they and/or their insurance pay versus when the bill was stuck to US tax payers?

    July 11, 2012 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • WHAT?

      Do you REALLY think they had insurance?

      July 11, 2012 at 7:10 pm | Report abuse |
  9. gonzales

    I'm puzzled as to why so many latinos are against deportation, increased border protection, etc. The majority of latinos in the US are not 'illegal immigrants' so it doesn't affect them.

    My best guess is that it's the same reason when OJ was acquitted, you saw a bunch of African Americans jumping up and down everywhere in excitement even though everyone knew he was guilty.

    July 11, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Mikes

    It's good to want. Go find out for yourself.

    July 11, 2012 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Alan

    Get over it already and stop demanding preferential treatment. Haven't you gotten enough with the amnesty a few weeks ago?

    July 11, 2012 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Alina

      The majority of Latinos in the United States are not illegal, so they do not need an amnesty program.

      July 11, 2012 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Azno

      The only "amnesty" bills signed thus far were by Reagan and Bush. But don't let the facts get in your way.

      July 11, 2012 at 6:10 pm | Report abuse |
  12. duh

    people are answering them but they don't understand english.

    July 11, 2012 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |