Latino Vote Key to Winning in Some Midterm Races

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown, second from left, appears with members of the Latino community, including state Senator Dean Florez, D-Shafter, second from right, Assemblyman Alberto Torrico, D-Fremont, right,while making a campaign stop at Laney College in Oakland, Calif., Thursday, Sept. 2, 2010. Brown is trying to shore up support among Hispanic voters a key voting block in the November election.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
AP Photo

Control of Congress will be decided by dozens of House and Senate races CBS News has identified as critical contests.

In the House, Republicans need to pick up 39 seats now held by Democrats to reach the 218 it takes to become the majority. They have a good shot at that. They're favored or have an even shot at winning at least that many Democratic seats.

In the Senate, the Republicans would need a net gain of 10 seats to reach the magic number of 51. They're targeting 12 Democratic seats that are currently in jeopardy.

CBS News correspondent John Blackstone reports that three are in states where Hispanics will be a key factor: California, Nevada and Colorado. Two years ago Hispanics helped President Obama win all three of those states.

With a mariachi band and a tequila toast, a Hispanic business group welcomed California's top two Republican candidates: Meg Whitman for governor and Carly Fiorina for the U.S. Senate.

"I think every speech should begin with a shot of tequila," said Fiorina.

Calif. Senate Race: Boxer (D) Vs. Fiorina (R)
CBS News Complete Coverage: Election 2010

For Fiorina, who's trying to unseat Sen. Barbara Boxer, attracting the Latino vote is crucial. Likewise for Meg Whitman in her governor's race against Democrat Jerry Brown.

"I cannot win this election without the Latino vote," said Whitman.

Latinos make up this country's biggest and fastest growing minority, numbering more than 48 million. Some 19 million are eligible to vote.

"Whether it's in California, whether it's in Nevada and other states, Latinos are looking for a reason to come out and vote," said San Francisco Supervisor David Campos.

In nine states - New Mexico, Texas, California, Arizona, Florida, Colorado, Nevada, New York and New Jersey - Latino voters make up more than 10 percent of the electorate.

They favor Democrats over Republicans 62 to 25 percent. Mr. Obama is urging them to get out and vote. "Don't forget who your friends are. No se olviden," said Mr. Obama on Sept. 15, 2010.

In Nevada, Latinos were urged not to vote in a controversial ad now pulled from TV stations. The ad, created by a conservative Latino group, seemed designed to help Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle in her close race with Senate majority leader Harry Reid.

Nev. Senate Race: Reid (D) Vs. Angle (R)

In her ads promising to get tough on illegal immigration Angle has been accused of stereotyping Latinos. And in a much-viewed video she told Hispanic students some of them looked Asian.

In the California governor's race immigration became an issue when Meg Whitman's undocumented housekeeper went public about being fired after working nine years for Whitman.

Whitman has spent about $140 million, a record for a non-presidential campaign.

Among non-Latino voters she is in a dead heat with Jerry Brown at 48 percent each. Add in Latinos and Brown has a five-point edge, 49 percent to 44 percent.

While Latino voters potentially have significant influence, it will count only if they actually cast ballots. A poll by the Pew Hispanic Center shows only 51 percent of registered Latinos say they are certain they will vote in this election.

  • John Blackstone
    John Blackstone

    From his base in San Francisco, CBS News correspondent John Blackstone covers breaking stories throughout the West. That often means he is on the scene of wildfires, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and rumbling volcanoes. He also reports on the high-tech industry in Silicon Valley and on social and economic trends that frequently begin in the West.