How Latinos could sway presidential vote in Colo.

(CBS News) DENVER - In the presidential race, a new Gallup poll out Wednesday shows Mitt Romney's lead is shrinking. Case in point: The weekend before the final debate, Gallup had him up seven points: 52 percent to 45 for President Obama. As of Wednesday, the Romney lead is down to three points, 50 percent to 47.

The president took his campaign Wednesday to Colorado and the race there is virtually tied. Which way Colorado goes may well be determined by Latino voters.

The battle for the Latino vote in Colorado is being waged one house at a time. Jesus Altamirano works evenings getting out the vote for a non-partisan Latino group.

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"A lot of individuals have been leaning towards Obama," said Altamirano about which candidate people are leaning towards when he knocks on their doors.

Latinos are now at least 13 percent of the Colorado electorate and favor President Obama 2 to 1. Nationwide, Latinos make up about 9 percent of voters, and are for Mr. Obama by a more than 3 to 1.

Asked if it's accurate, in terms of the sentiment, that immigration is the prime topic when a national politician talks about the Latino vote, Altamirano said it is definitely not. "We are looking more for jobs, and health care, economy, public education -- those are the issues that really are driving individuals to the polls."

"Well, I support Romney because of the economy," said Jeanette Wellers, who came to America at 15 from El Salvador -- an illegal immigrant who was granted citizenship under Ronald Reagan's amnesty program. She now owns a successful roofing company.

"I truly passionately believe that Hispanics are Republican -- they just don't know it," she said. "We are very family-oriented , we are very religious. I think we need a CEO-type, someone who is not afraid to make tough decisions."

And as Latinos have gained political influence, their expectations have grown.

"We definitely want to see more economic benefits for individuals in all communities," said Altamirano.

About 10 percent of Colorado's 3.6 million registered voters have already cast their ballots. Here at the Denver Elections Commission, they're already counting the ballots--no results released until election night. But we can tell you more Republicans have voted than Democrats.

  • Barry Petersen

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