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November 24, 2014

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Jon Ralston:

Asian-American vote cannot be ignored

The last time The Forgotten Minority made any difference in Nevada politics was when the marvelous Sharron Angle told a group of Hispanic students, “Some of you look a little more Asian to me.”

That line was emblematic of Angle’s serial alienation of the Hispanic vote, which, among many other things, cost her the election in 2010 to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. But what was less noticed was the Reid campaign’s quiet, sophisticated outreach to the Asian-Pacific Islander vote, especially with the endorsement of Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao, whom Reid all but credited with his victory.

With all the chatter this cycle of how important — potentially determinative — the Hispanic vote could be in the presidential election, we who chatter often forget that Asian-American voters could also be important. And if races for president and U.S. Senate — and maybe a congressional race — are close enough here, every demographic will be seen as crucial — and, thus, pandered to.

So it comes as no surprise that the Team Romney Bus stopped Monday at Seafood City, with Asian-American state Senate candidate Mari Nakashima St. Martin conveniently on hand, and the presumptive GOP nominee’s campaign also has an Asian-American-Pacific Islanders for Romney Coalition meeting this weekend at the Team Nevada (aka shadow Republican Party) headquarters.

(I do chuckle that this made-for-TV Seafood City stop occurred while a “PBS Newshour” crew was in Las Vegas doing a piece on the influence of the Asian-American vote in November. But coincidences happen, right?)

Just as Republicans have discovered they can’t let Democrats dominate the Hispanic vote, they know they must make inroads among Asian-Americans, who were just under 9 percent of Nevada’s population (about a quarter of a million) in the 2010 census. That’s nowhere near the Hispanic population — Latinos make up about a quarter of Nevada’s residents. But they could be a significant voting bloc, and they now lean substantially to the Democrats.

A survey released Tuesday by APIAVote, which is a nonpartisan group but one that used longtime Democratic pollster Celinda Lake’s firm, indicated how important Asians could be, how much work the Republicans have to do and just how much opportunity they have.

Gigantic caveat alert: The April poll was part of a national survey and did only 112 extra interviews in Nevada, which means the margin of error was quite large — 9.3 percent. That means the poll may not tell us much at all.

Having said that, the numbers did not come back so well for the president, with the pollster concluding, “Asian-American voters in Nevada tend to be more critical of Obama and more supportive of Romney than Asian-Americans nationwide.”

The survey found 20 percent of Asian-Americans rated the president as doing a poor job, compared with 20 percent nationally. Forty-two percent said he was doing a good job, 8 percent said excellent and 30 percent just fair.

Frankly, I don’t put a lot of stock in those numbers because of the margin of error, nor do I buy the 54-29 lead the poll says Obama has over Romney here — that actually is well under the 46-point lead the president has over Romney in the nationwide results (713 registered voters, 3.7 percent margin of error).

But the poll’s message is something I do put stock in — a very simple one: Notice us.

And here’s what I do believe, based on some figures from a political operative who has always had impeccable databases: Democrats have about an 8-point lead over Republicans (39-31) among Asian-Americans in Nevada, with a large concentration of those voters in CD3, Nevada’s swing congressional district. In CD3, according to figures I have seen, the voting-age population of Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders surmounts 15 percent.

So you get why this group may have more attention paid to it this year than any previous cycle. The Democrats have picked up on the huge growth of this demographic — 116 percent since 2000 — and began outreach efforts two cycles ago. They have community events, media contacts and more, especially in the Filipino community, which may make up half of the Asian population here.

“Those who ignore us do so at their own peril,” one Asian-American activist said Tuesday.

There seems little chance of that as the presidential and U.S. Senate campaigns ramp up. And the GOP — or at least the shadow GOP — has nowhere to go but up, just as it does with Hispanics, because the Democrats have so embarrassed them the past two cycles with a sophisticated, relentless voter-targeting effort that helped Obama win here in ’08 and Reid survive in ’10.

There is nothing more flattering for a demographic group than to be paid attention to and pandered to by candidates. So the best news out of all of this for The Forgotten Minority: forgotten no more.

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  1. I can't understand why people try to distort reality, or misinform here. Such extreme and gross ignorance is not a testament of their knowledge.

    It certainly is a testament to the fact that some people think Asian Americans are suffering from the same ignorance. Not true!

  2. Re peacelily. What ignorance? The majority of Asian voters will vote Democrat, which shows their intelligence. F&&% Romney and his Reagan "supply side" trickle down economic BS, that has proven to be nothing more than a scam favoring the plutocratic rich job killers.

  3. @Gary Lind, I agree, I am no supporter of the "trickle down" lies.

    It is logical to see that the vast majority of people are not the privileged, however, they are essential to the success of small business. They are the consumers and demand for products and services is what drives the health of business and the economy.

    If one looks at the reciprocal circle, rather than the linear trickle, it becomes obvious that balance and health is what comes and goes around.

    Trickle down results is a kind of slow financial dehydration for the majority of consumers. The effects of that are loss of strength in buying power, imbalances, confusion and can even lead to death.

    To stave off this dehydration, credit has been abused, but it only covered the reality, lack of growth in wages and increasing debt. Then came the crash and resulting crisis.

    The talking point techniques on such deep issues are a disservice. They are easily used to manipulate and misinform, on both sides. They are also easy to copy & paste.

    Most Asian Americans are not lazy or stupid, and know how to think soundly. So I don't underestimate their ability to analyze the realities. I don't need to be concerned about them or any racial group, genders, or religions, or any of a number of ways division is used to manipulate.

    We get exactly what we put into the seats of power. After one votes, we are accountable for results. That is why it is important for each person to take their citizenship seriously and do their own work to learn truth.

    I have never lived in a period of time when the populous was happy. We seem to always have some complaints, even within parties. It just seems to be getting more disordered or dysfunctional.

    Some people find participating in this kind of Opinion exercise to be comical, debasing and worthless. It has little to do with learning facts and understanding them, just as some never participate in polls. I respect their choices and don't denigrate their intelligence.