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Analysis: Romney's 'magic number' to dodge Latino doom

May 23, 2012|By Paul West
  • Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney holds a roundtable discussion with Latino business owners in Tempe, Ariz.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney holds a roundtable discussion… (Jae C. Hong / Associated…)

WASHINGTON -- Mitt Romney won’t carry the Latino vote this year. No Republican nominee for president ever has.

But improving his margins among Latinos is crucial to his chances of defeating President Obama, as new poll numbers out of Florida show.

The Quinnipiac University survey, just out Wednesday morning, gives Romney  a six-point statewide lead over Obama, 47% to 41%. Florida has the nation’s third-largest Latino population, and Romney drew 40% among Latino voters to Obama’s 42%. A previous Quinnipiac poll, conducted three weeks earlier, showed the race a statistical dead heat (Romney 44, Obama 43). In that survey, the president enjoyed a lopsided 58-30 edge among Latinos.

Leaving aside some obvious points— (a) nothing happened in the intervening period that would explain such a large shift among Latinos; (b) sub-groups in polls have a large margin of error; and (c) polls should be viewed with caution at this stage in the general election campaign — the results demonstrate the potential of the Latino vote to alter the outcome of the election.  

There is no precise “magic Latino number” that Romney must hit to guarantee victory in key states, for a variety of reasons. But as the Florida polls suggest, the closer he gets to 40, the better his chances.

To get there, though, he has his work cut out for him.

Romney has a wider lead over Obama among non-Latino whites, at the moment, than John McCain did on election day in 2008, according to recent Pew Research Center data. But Romney is attracting barely one-fourth of the Latino vote, among the worst showings by a Republican presidential nominee in the past 35 years. His hard-line stance on immigration reform during the GOP primaries has complicated Romney’s efforts to appeal to the nation’s largest minority group.

But Romney is betting that the economy will be the overriding factor in the election, including for many Latinos. Today, he is to deliver remarks on education to a Latino business conference in Washington.

Down the road, Romney also plans to give particular emphasis to Latinos. He told donors in Florida last month that his party needs to woo Latinos with a “Republican DREAM Act” (Romney opposes the Democratic DREAM proposal, which would provide a path to citizenship for some illegal immigrants).  

The person who is likely to help him in this regard is Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who is developing a Republican version that Romney is likely to embrace. Rubio, who has campaigned with Romney, will also address Wednesday’s conference at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce headquarters. 

Making Rubio his running mate could boost Romney’s appeal to Latino voters, according to the latest Quinnipiac poll. It showed that if Rubio were to join the ticket, Romney’s overall margin would grow by two percentage points in Florida, the largest swing state in the country.

Romney seems well aware of his personal Latino problem. In his remarks last month to the donors in Florida, he warned that unless more Latinos can be convinced to vote Republican in November, President Obama’s big lead in the polls among Latinos “spells doom for us.”

paul.west@latimes.com

Original source: Analysis: Romney’s “magic number” to dodge Latino doom

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