Update - Pollsters Say Latinos Are 2000 Swing Vote

By Bruce Sullivan | July 7, 2008 | 8:25 PM EDT

Update with new quotes

Washington (CNSNews.com) - With the number of Latino voters growing rapidly, especially in large electoral states such as California, Texas, Florida and New York, some political analysts say they will be a key voting bloc in the next presidential election.

"The Hispanic or Latino vote is going to be one of the great battles of the 2000 campaign," Republican pollster Frank Luntz told CNSNews.com.

Luntz pointed to the political diversity among Latino voters saying that Mexican American voters in California tend to vote more for Democrats than Republicans, while Cuban American voters in Florida identify themselves as almost 70 percent Republican.

Democratic pollster Mark Mellman told CNSNews.com that the Democrats expect most Latinos to vote for their presidential candidate in 2000 because the Republican platform does not resonate in their communities. "Hispanic voters have been driven into the arms of the Democratic Party by Republican policies," he said."

The importance of the Latino vote has been evident in the presidential campaigns of Texas Republican Governor George W. Bush and Democratic Vice President Al Gore. While on the campaign trail each candidate makes it a point to visit local Latino communities and address the residents in Spanish. In his reelection race for Texas governor in 1998 the Latino community voted overwhelmingly for Bush.

"Gov. Bush is working hard to reach out to the Latino community and broaden the base of the Republican Party," Bush's Hispanic policy spokesperson Sonia Colin-Martinez told CNSNews.com.

Speaking Spanish to Latino voters "says you are interested" said Mellman.

Dan Hazlewood, a consultant to Republican presidential candidate Steve Forbes, told CNSNews.com that he believes the Latino vote will be more of a swing vote in California than in Texas, Florida or New York.

"Bilingual education will be an issue in California," said Hazlewood.

The Latino vote will not be as much of a factor in the New Hampshire primary or the Iowa caucus, said Hazlewood, because of their smaller populations in those two states.