Defying predictions that their participation would be lackluster, Latinos turned out in record numbers and voted for President Obama by broad margins, tipping the balance in at least three swing states and securing their position as an organized force in U.S. politics with the power to move national elections.
Over all, according to exit polls not yet finalized by Edison Research, Obama won 71 percent of the Hispanic vote while Mitt Romney won 27 percent. The gap of 44 percentage points was even greater than Obama's 36-point advantage over John McCain in 2008.
Latinos had such a strong turnout that it lifted them to 10 percent of voters nationwide, an increase from 6 percent in 2000. Latino leaders said their voters had cast ballots that ensured Obama's relatively narrow plurality -- fewer than 2.8 million votes -- in the popular count.
"Latino voters confirmed unequivocally that the road to the White House passes through Latino neighborhoods," said Clarissa Martinez De Castro, a top official at NCLR, the Hispanic organization also known as the National Council of La Raza, which joined in an extensive campaign this year to register and turn out voters.
Latinos' greatest impact was in several battleground states. In Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico, Obama won the Hispanic vote by big percentages that well exceeded margins of victory, exit polls showed. In each of those states, Latinos significantly increased their share of total voters, gaining influence that could be decisive in future elections.
In the House, Republicans held their majority, but their caucus became less diverse. Rep. Allen West of Florida, one of two black Republicans in the chamber, was likely to lose his seat. Mia Love, a black Mormon from Utah, lost her bid to unseat Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson. And their Latino caucus shrank from seven to five after David Rivera of Florida and Francisco Canseco of Texas were defeated. On the Democratic side, the number of Latinos grew from 17 to 23, increasing the total number of House Latinos to 28, the largest in history.
Georgia voters approved an amendment to the state constitution that will allow for the creation of a commission to authorize new charter schools, which are publicly financed but independently operated. The measure drew campaign contributions from Alice Walton, the daughter of Sam Walton, Wal-Mart's founder, and Americans for Prosperity, the Tea Party organization founded by the billionaire Koch brothers.