Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney might have been joking when he said he “would love to be able to convince people” that he is Hispanic, but compared with his fate in the 2008 Florida GOP presidential primary, Romney came close Tuesday night.
Republican primary exit polls in Florida saw the victor, Romney, pulling in 54 percent of the Hispanic vote. That’s 40 percentage points better than his results among Hispanic Floridians during his 2008 presidential bid. While Romney only won 14 percent of the Hispanic vote that year, eventual 2008 GOP nominee John McCain won 54 percent — the same number Romney pulled in Tuesday night.
Former House speaker Newt Gingrich won 29 percent of the Hispanic vote. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum won 9 percent, and Texas Rep. Ron Paul won 5 percent.
Romney’s 40-point swing among Hispanics is significant, as that voting bloc makes up an ever-larger portion of the electorate.
Speculation about a possible Marco Rubio vice presidency has been fueled in large part by Republicans’ awareness that they need to capture a large portion of the Hispanic vote in November. The GOP’s support from Hispanic Americans has diminished each year since President George W. Bush won 44 percent in 2004.
According to a Latino Decisions for Univision News and ABC News poll, when Romney is matched up against President Barack Obama, 40 percent of Hispanic Floridians said they would vote for Romney, compared with 50 percent for Obama.
The poll revealed that if Gingrich is the Republican nominee, only 38 percent would vote for the former Speaker, while 52 percent would turn to Obama.