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NRIs make impact on 'Super Tuesday'

Indian American voters may have, in fact, been the swing voters in some of the closely contested states, thus contributing to determining the front-running nominees for president from the Democratic and Republican parties.

india Updated: Feb 09, 2008 02:39 IST

Indian Americans, who have a sizeable population in crucial 'Super Tuesday' states like California, New York, New Jersey and Illinois, voted in large numbers in the presidential primaries to play a vital role in shaping the country's political landscape.

Indian American voters may have, in fact, been the swing voters in some of the closely contested states, thus contributing to determining the front-running nominees for president from the Democratic and Republican parties.

New Jersey, which traditionally held its primaries long after the races were more or less decided, was moved up to Super Tuesday this time.

According to a statement by the US-India Political Action Committee (USINPAC), which claims to be the political voice of 2.5 million Indian Americans, the community's support for Barack Obama inched closer in the past month to that for Hillary Clinton because he was able to win over the middle-class and younger voters. Clinton eventually triumphed in a close race between the two Democrats.

"The Indian American understands the importance of participating in the political process, especially this year, given New Jersey's significant relevance in helping to elect the nation's next president," said Rob Andrews, Democrat Congressman from the state.

In California, the 300,000 Indian Americans who work in Silicon Valley, looked for the most business-friendly candidate who believes that market forces are best and that outsourcing is not a "war against the (American) middle class" as CNN commentator Lou Dobbs would have you believe.

Outsourcing, however, has not been a big issue during the presidential race so far, partly due to growing concerns over domestic issues such as the looming recession. The leading presidential candidates have broadly been in favour of allowing the global economy to dictate the flow of jobs and business.

Clinton and Obama seek to reopen the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to strengthen enforcement of labour and environmental standards. Mitt Romney, arguably the most pro-business candidate on the Republican side, has been vocal on renegotiating liberalised trade with China to stop currency manipulation that gives Chinese products unfair advantage.

"Indian-Americans like all Asian-Americans are poised to make a historic impact on Super Tuesday, especially in California where a fifth of the nominating convention delegates aare being contested, and where Asian-American voters continue to trend Democratic," Congressman Mike Honda, vice-chair of the Democratic National Committee, was quoted as saying by the USINPAC.

As the results came in, Clinton had taken the state and Romney's rival, John McCain, was the Republican winner.

In Illinois too the poll date was pushed up from March to Feb 5. Economic issues dominated in the state where Indian Americans are active players in commerce.

Jonathan Singh Bedi, an Indian American who lost in the legislative primary (Democrat) for District 5 of the state senate, gave voice to other issues of import to the Indian American community.

"The election will determine the outcome of the issues most important to our community including work visas, the erosion of our constitutional liberties, economic development, international trade and national security priorities," he said.

Obama won in his home state, Illinois.

In Georgia, Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the US House of Representatives, praised the grassroots involvement of the Indian American community in the state.

"Indian Americans continue to make a significant contribution to our society, and the community itself has grown dramatically in its political sophistication and involvement, and thus in making its voice heard clearly," Gingrich, the Republican from Georgia, said in the USINPAC release.

Tony Patel, a Democratic candidate for District 47 in the Georgia general assembly, added: "As physicians, educators, business owners and hardworking citizens, we must exercise our right to vote and have our voices heard on important issues such as educational excellence, affordable health care and responsible government."

Obama won the Georgia primary and Mike Huckabee emerged the Republican winner in the state.

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