So-called Dreamers, undocumented children who were brought to the United States by their parents illegally, played a key role in that movement, Martinez-Ebers said.
While many were initially upset with the president for a lack of action on immigration reform, they changed their position earlier this year when Obama issued an executive action that allows certain undocumented young people to remain in this country without fear of deportation. The program is called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
"I think that's what really saved him and shored up his support," she said.
Edward Sanchez, 22, a Democrat who worked as an election judge in Lancaster, said many Hispanic voters were unclear about the future of deferred action had Romney been elected.
Obama's Hispanic support jumped to 80 percent in Nevada and 87 percent in Colorado -- both key battleground states where Dreamers worked hard to get out the vote.
Daniel Rodriguez, who lives in Phoenix and is a member of the United We Dream network, said Dreamers took their story to Hispanic voters in those states -- using both their feet and social media.
"I am American without papers," Rodriguez said he told Hispanic voters. "That is a story I share everywhere I go. That story resonates with them."
Hinojosa said the young Hispanic movement is part of the formula to turn Texas blue. "We recognize that's our path to victory -- young Hispanics, who are U.S. citizens who see the policies of the Democratic Party are consistent with what they believe in," Hinojosa said.
Cruz trailed badly among Hispanic voters
While Hispanic voter turnout made headlines nationwide, Texas made history with the election of Cruz to the U.S. Senate.
But Cruz's victory over Democrat Paul Sadler also intrigues political watchers, who pointed to his inability to garner the Hispanic vote.
Statewide, 65 percent of Hispanics voted for Sadler and 35 percent voted for Cruz, according to an analysis from impreMedia and Latino Decisions, which conducted exit polls in 11 states, including Texas.
In the heavily Hispanic areas of San Antonio and El Paso, Sadler beat Cruz with 50.5 and 61 percent of the vote, respectively.
Cruz got strong support in Tarrant County, winning 57 percent of the vote.
Tarrant is the state's only major urban area to go decidedly red.
Ruben Jimenez Jr., chairman of the Tarrant County Republican Hispanic Assembly, said Cruz's biography is compelling since it touches on his escape from Communist Cuba.
"I backed Cruz because he knows what can happen if we go socialist," Jimenez said of the candidate, a darling of the Tea Party. "That I like about him. I like the conservative values."
"The Republican Party is going to ignore or alienate the Latino electorate at its own peril," said Susan Gonzalez Baker, director of the Center for Mexican American Studies at the University of Texas at Arlington. "The numbers speak for themselves."
Many in the GOP say a softer approach to immigration reform is the key.
On Thursday, conservative radio talk show host Sean Hannity told listeners that he has "evolved" on immigration reform and recognizes the need for a sensible solution, according to Alfonso Aguilar, executive director for the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles.
"There is a growing momentum within the conservative movement to embrace a market-based immigration plan that is in line with Ronald Reagan, who said it best: 'No regulation or law should be allowed if it results in crops rotting in the fields for lack of harvesters,'" Aguilar said in a news release.
Hispanic voters 'very important' for Davis
While the Latino vote in Tarrant County had no impact on the presidential or U.S. Senate race, political watchers said it played a key role in helping Davis defeat her Republican challenger, state Rep. Mark Shelton, in the race for state Senate District 10.
Davis, who said the Hispanic vote was "very important" in victory, beat Shelton by about 6,000 votes.
"There were a number of people in the Latino community who came forward and said, 'This is our candidate of choice,'" Davis said this week. "And they joined with African-Americans who felt the same way."
One of the keys, said Tarrant County Constable Sergio De Leon, is that Davis "cares about families. She cares about children. We know she will continue to fight for us Austin."
Supporting funding for public education was a key platform for Davis, as was immigration reform.
The groundwork laid by her campaign was also important, experts say.
"It looks like a really good ground game, old-fashioned shoe leather and grassroots organizing, along with money," Baker said.
Tarrant County Republican Chairwoman Jennifer Hall acknowledged that work needs to be done to better engage Hispanics. And she agreed with others in her party that immigration reform will play a major role in future elections.
"We all want legal immigration happening," Hall said. "We want to make sure everyone comes the correct way."
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