WASHINGTON - The number of black and Hispanic registered voters has fallen sharply since 2008, posing a serious challenge to President Obama’s campaign in an election that could turn on the participation of minority voters.
Voter rolls typically shrink in nonpresidential election years, but this is the first time in nearly four decades that the number of registered Hispanics has dropped significantly.
That figure fell 5 percent across the country, to about 11 million, according to the Census Bureau. But in some politically important swing states, the decline among Hispanics, who are considered critical in the 2012 presidential contest, is much higher: a drop of just over 28 percent in New Mexico, for example, and about 10 percent in Florida.
For both Hispanics and blacks, the large decrease is attributed to the ailing economy, which forced many Americans to move in search of work or because of other financial upheaval.
“The only explanation out there is the massive job loss and home mortgage foreclosures which disproportionately affected minorities,’’ said Antonio Gonzalez, president of the William C. Velasquez Institute, a nonpartisan policy group that focuses on Latinos. “When you move, you lose your registration.’’
Political strategists and election analysts are divided on whether registrations will rise to their previous levels. But the prospect of a tight race between Obama and Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee, suggests that eligible Americans who register and vote can play an important role.
Romney son and wife are twins’ parents by surrogate
Mitt Romney’s eldest son, Tagg, made a surprise announcement Friday: He and his wife, Jen, are the new parents of twin boys delivered by a surrogate.
“Happy 2 announce birth of twin boys David Mitt and William Ryder. Big thanks to our surrogate. Life is a miracle,’’ Tagg Romney said via Twitter at 3:17 p.m.
He included a picture of himself cradling one of the boys.
Ten minutes later, his mother, Ann Romney, said in her own tweet: “Grandchildren 17 and 18 are here - congratulations @TRomney and Jen! We can’t wait to meet David and William.’’
Tagg Romney is one of five children of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee and his wife. Tagg and Jen Romney had four children previously.
The Associated Press reported it was the second time the couple had used a surrogate. Their son Jonathan was born in 2010 by a surrogate.
Tagg Romney said on his Facebook page that the latest surrogacy was the biological product of him and his wife.
The happy occasion could spark some social and religious debates.
Both Tagg and Jen Romney, like his parents and brothers, are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It encourages its members to have large families and places a premium on genealogical research.
Nonetheless, “The Church strongly discourages surrogate motherhood,’’ says an LDS handbook.
Meanwhile, in-vitro fertilization - which is used to create the embryos needed for implantation in a surrogate - is also opposed by the Catholic Church and other foes of abortion rights because it often involves the destruction of excess human embryos.
Mitt Romney has not spoken out against in-vitro fertilization, but has said he believes that life begins at conception. He told Mike Huckabee late last year that he would “absolutely’’ support a constitutional amendment that would establish the definition of life at conception.