In Michigan, the community grew 51 percent during the decade, to 115,000. In Ohio, one of the nation's best bellwethers (no Republican has ever won the presidency without it), the community tops 54,000. And in Pennsylvania, there are more than 48,000 Arab-Americans.

The largest communities are located in California (190,890) and New York (120,370), but those two states lean so decidedly Democratic that the Arab-American vote is unlikely to play much of a role.

Beyond the population figures, Arab-Americans stand out as an attractive demographic group because of their relative wealth. According to the census, the median household income for Arab-Americans in 2000 was $47,459, compared with the national median of $41,994.

Bush campaigned hard for the support of Arab-Americans in the 2000 campaign, and he earned praise for his pledge to repeal the use of secret evidence as a tool in prosecuting suspected terrorists. After his election, Bush made two top Arab-American appointments, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham and Mitchell E. Daniels Jr., director of the Office of Management and Budget.

But the Patriot Act, the war in Iraq and the failure of the administration's road map for peace between Israel and the Palestinians have eroded Bush's support. According to Zogby, a January poll conducted by his brother John, a prominent pollster, showed Bush's popularity had fallen from a high of 83 percent in October 2001 to just 38 percent.

"The positions this administration has taken in connection with this community have, for the first time, united the community against President Bush," said Abed Awad, an attorney who is a member of the Arab-American Leadership Council of New Jersey

. "There is definitely a momentum. People are energized."

One way or the other, many Arab-Americans are pleased just that their voice in the political arena is being heard. For community leaders like Abu-Hadba, Paterson's deputy mayor, the 2004 presidential contest represents the culmination of 20 years of hard work. "We were the sleeping giant," he said with a smile. "Now we are the waking giant."