The closer the presidential election looms, the more the competition between Democrats and Republicans intensifies in three swing states where the Latino vote could hold the key to victory not only statewide, but nationwide as well: Florida, Colorado and Nevada.
Colorado's likely voters have tipped toward Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in just the past day or two, Nevada is continuing to support incumbent Barack Obama and Florida is presently in a technical tie between the two, according to figures released Tuesday by Real Clear Politics, which averages a range of polls.
A record 23.7 million Latinos are eligible to vote on Nov. 6, 22 percent more than four years ago, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.
"The competition between the two candidates is stronger and stronger and Latinos can make the difference and (determine) the result in many undecided states," the deputy director of the pro-immigrant group America's Voice, Lynn Tramonte, told Efe.
Florida is the largest and most volatile of the swing states and calculations are that 19.2 percent of the Sunshine State's eligible voters are Hispanics.
Since 1988, no candidate has won Florida by more than 6 percentage points. In the last four presidential elections, the state went Republican twice and Democrat the other two times.
The voter surveys now predict a very tight race in 2012.
Obama enjoys extensive support among Hispanics, but he is facing a bad Florida economy and concern over the low level of voter registration among Latinos.
Figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show unemployment in Florida is above the national rate, household incomes are lower than the national median and mortgage foreclosures are the highest in the nation.
Even so, 56 percent of the state's Latinos say they are certain they will vote for Obama, compared with 27 percent who support Romney, according to a poll released last week by America's Voice.
"The Latino vote in Florida is changing with the years in favor of the Democrats," observed Tramonte, who emphasized that the wave of incoming Puerto Ricans and the voting preferences of the new generations of Cuban Americans are both more progressive than those of their elders.
The survey also found a 69 percent to 15 percent advantage for Obama among Hispanics in Nevada, where non-Latinos are about evenly divided between the two candidates.
In this western state, unemployment and the real estate crisis have viciously attacked a number of residents and have set records on the national level.
Hispanics represent 17.3 percent of the electorate in Nevada and 13.4 percent in Colorado.
A tight race between Obama and Romney is what the voter surveys predict in Colorado, where over the past four decades the Democrats won the state only in 1992 and 2008.
Hispanic voters are also important in New Mexico - where Obama won big in 2008 - and in solidly Democratic California, as well as in Texas, which leans Republican.
There is another determining element, however: Hispanic voter registration.
"The most difficult step among Hispanics is to get them to register, but if Latinos register, they always vote at a higher rate than the general population," Tramonte emphasized.