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SALT LAKE CITY — A reporter for CNN's Spanish- language cable channel is spending the Fourth of July holiday in Utah as part of a 50-state tour to discover what issues will be important to Latino voters in the 2012 election.
"The politicians think that just dealing with immigration is going to attract the Latino vote," reporter Gustavo Valdes said. But immigration has not been the top priority of Latino voters he's interviewed here or in other western states.
"The issues turn out to be the same as everybody else," Valdes said. "It's the economy, jobs, health, education."
The politicians think that just dealing with immigration is going to attract the Latino vote.
Still, he said, immigration remains a factor in how Latinos vote.
"If they have two candidates with similar ideas on the first issues, immigration could be the tipping point. It also could be the tipping point deciding which political parties they decide to follow," Valdes said.
The project, which will continue through the November 2012 election, is also an effort to encourage Latinos to vote. He said an estimated 12 million Latinos are expected to vote in the next general election, only half of those eligible.
Valdes, who also reports for CNN, said he timed his visit to Utah so he could include Provo's Fourth of July parade in his coverage after hearing it described as one of the nation's best.
He is also interviewing a number of Utah Latino leaders, including state Sen. Ross Romero, R-Salt Lake. Romero, he said, is an example of a candidate elected for reasons other than his ethic background.
"He's proof of what the Latino community can do for the United States," said Valdes, who met Romero at a national conference of Latino leaders in Texas. "He has Latino heritage, but he is part of the community in which he lives. He represents that group."
The first episode of the series, titled "Voto Latino," is set to air Monday on CNN Espanol.