“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 portrayed by polls as close contests before Election Day. In Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico, Mr. 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 Florida, where Mr. Obama held a narrow lead on Wednesday in a race that had not yet been called, the president won among Latinos by 60 percent to 39 percent for Mr. Romney, among a group that now makes up 17 percent of the state’s voters.
Mr. Romney’s weak showing prompted Latino leaders to warn that Republicans could no longer afford to ignore or alienate Hispanics in national races. But they also immediately laid out an ambitious agenda for Mr. Obama, saying they expected to see jobs programs tailored to Latinos and quick action on legislation to give legal status to millions of illegal immigrants.
“The sleeping Latino giant is wide-awake and it’s cranky,” said Eliseo Medina, international secretary-treasurer of the Service Employees International Union, another group that played a central role in spurring Latinos to vote. “We expect action and leadership on immigration reform in 2013. No more excuses. No more obstruction or gridlock.”