Nevada is a prime example of that dynamic. In 2010, Hispanics helped Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid win re-election against a tea party candidate who promoted her staunch anti-illegal immigration stance. Republican Brian Sandoval, a Hispanic who was elected governor at the same time, only won 33 percent of the Hispanic vote.
Until Obama's executive order, Hispanic activists were frustrated that Obama had not pursued plans to legalize more illegal immigrants. Instead, his administration was deporting them in record numbers.
"Before President Obama made his decision to go forward with deferred action, it was pretty dismal," said Vicenta Montoya, an immigration attorney and Democratic activist. "I was going to vote for Obama but it wasn't going to be with grand enthusiasm."
Now Obama's order has fired up Montoya and others in East Las Vegas, a swath of shopping centers, tire shops and weathered ranch houses sprawling east from the Strip. It's the neighborhood of the often-unionized people who make Sin City function — housekeepers, card dealers and taxi drivers.
For some, Obama's order pulled them into politics. Earlier this month, Hector Rivera's father asked him what he was going to do with his future. Rivera, a high school senior who was brought into the United States without authorization when he was 5, went to the East Las Vegas Obama campaign office and volunteered.
The teenager already has applied for documents allowing him to work under Obama's program. "It's an opportunity for me and future generations," said Rivera, 17, imagining how his own unborn children could benefit someday. "Even though they'll be born here, I want to get a better job to give them a better opportunity so they can live a better life."
Others, like Sergio Solis, have suffered economically but see the president as on their side. Solis had to close a restaurant in Southern California and move here to work as a salesman for an energy company. But, after approvingly mentioning the DREAM Act, Solis said it will take time to correct the country's course following the eight years of the George W. Bush administration.
"This building here, I can dynamite it and destroy it in five minutes," Solis said, gesturing to a supermarket where he was handing out brochures. "But I can't build it back up in five minutes."
The Romney campaign's East Las Vegas office shares a strip mall with a bail bond company and a tortilleria. It opened after volunteers in the neighborhood urged the campaign to set up shop closer to their homes, so they didn't have to drive to the suburbs to phone-bank or collect yard signs.
Susana Loli, 56, is thrilled. The hotel housekeeper didn't vote for Obama in 2008. But as the economy collapsed before his inauguration, she hoped he could keep the country healthy. Now her side business fixing garage doors has shriveled, and she had to sell family property in Peru to stave off foreclosure on her Nevada house.
"With Mitt Romney, we'll have a better future for my children and grandchildren," Loli said. "The Latinos who are going to vote for Obama haven't studied the problem. When you talk to them and explain the situation, then they understand."
Ana Maria Gonzalez, 50, was disappointed that some Hispanics support Obama because of his executive order. She backs Romney because of her faith in his business acumen and moral values, but also because she thinks he's more likely to deliver a humane overhaul of the country's immigration system.
"In four years, President Obama did nothing," Gonzalez said, adding, that she was certain Romney would come up with a way to let DREAM Act youth and other deserving illegal immigrants stay in the country.
Follow Nicholas Riccardi on Twitter at www.twitter.com/nickriccardi
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