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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -
When it comes to the presidential race – North Carolina, as a swing state, gets a lot of attention.
And in this so-called ‘purple state' there's a voting block that some experts believe could be the key to carrying North Carolina this November.
According to the North Carolina Board of Elections: in 2008, statewide - there were 68,970 registered voters who identified as Latino. In Mecklenburg County – there were 10,622 registered Latino voters.
To date in 2012, there are 91,482 registered Latino voters across the state. Mecklenburg County is showing 14,395.
That increase has the presidential candidates paying attention to the Latino community and doing specific outreach to court those voters.
According to Catawba College Political Scientist Michael Bitzer, "the presidential race is going to be a campaign about how big each candidate's base can be."
In 2008,President Barack Obama won North Carolina by just 14,000 votes. Dr. Bitzer says "because with the separation of 14,000 voters in 2008 – every vote is literally going to count and this group has the potential."
"The message we give to the Hispanic community is the message we give to all voters which is the number issue is jobs and the economy" Bettina Inclan, the Director of Hispanic Outreach for the Republican National Committee, said. "Voter contact is the most important thing", with organized phone banks, volunteers calling Hispanic voters and bilingual voters, going door to door and doing outreach with the business community. Mitt Romney's campaign officials say they also have eight ads in Spanish."
Obama volunteers say they too are out pounding the pavement, reaching out to Latino voters.
Asgod Barrantes, a college student volunteering for Obama,says they're out "registering people, going out there trying to expand the electorate, doing phone banking."
Democrats say they know they won North Carolina by a slim margin in 2008. They insist they're not resting on those laurels – instead working to reach more Latino voters and address their issues.
"Economy, jobs, housing, everything to do with improvement" that's what Gerson Brito wants to hear the candidates address.
A long time Charlotte resident from the Dominican Republic, Brito says " a lot of people are still debating" which candidate they intend to support. Restaurant owner Francisco Lazo is an undecided registered Latino voter.
For him, immigration is a key issue. He wants to see more outreach by the presidential candidates. Lazo says ‘the whole community is waiting for the representatives focusing into the Latino community, and Latino problems."
With North Carolina as a swing state, the Latino voters here are getting attention.