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Unions help Obama with Hispanic vote

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KAI RYSSDAL: Well, we tried, but there was really no way to avoid talking about last night’s New Hampshire primary. We did get it down in the second half of the show, though. As the world now knows, Hillary Clinton got the big win on the Democratic side. Today, the candidate she defeated got a pretty good consolation prize. Unite Here — that’s a labor union that represents nearly half a million service workers — endorsed Barack Obama today. From the Americas Desk at WLRN, Marketplace’s Dan Grech explains.

DAN GRECH: In addition to Unite Here, Obama won an endorsement late yesterday from the Nevada chapter of the Service Employees International Union. Both locals have many Hispanic members.

Federico PENA: This is very exciting news for us.

Federico Pena is national co-chair of the Obama campaign.

PENA: The endorsement of these unions is key in terms of adding more energy and excitement and impetus to our campaign.

The January 19th Nevada caucuses will be the first real test of the Hispanic swing vote. And for now, Latino voters are siding heavily with Senator Hillary Clinton. Luis Clemens edits “CandidatoUSA,” an online Latino political newsletter.

LUIS CLEMENS: The bottom line, I think, is name recognition. Latinos in the U.S. associate the Clinton administration with the time of economic prosperity and pro-Latino policies.

Unite Here said in a statement that it endorsed Obama because the former community organizer is “a champion of working Americans.”

Observers say these union endorsements put the Hispanic vote into play. The Nevada caucuses are on the Saturday of a holiday weekend. Unions are very effective at bringing out the vote.

AL MARQUEZ: I am Al Marquez, 50 years of age. And I work in the gaming industry.

Marquez lives in Las Vegas and is of Mexican descent. He says he’s looking for a candidate that will protect Hispanics against discrimination, and that’s led him to Obama.

MARQUEZ: Obama understands segregation from a personal standpoint. He also understands inclusion from a personal standpoint. I don’t think Hillary Clinton does. I just don’t feel that.

The Clinton camp has 10 days to make him feel differently.

I’m Dan Grech for Marketplace.

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