Video package by Gillian Roberts
Mitt Romney’s campaign says it expects to receive 38 percent of the Latino vote — a number that past Republican records indicate the Republican nominee is unlikely to meet. But some strategists are saying that the former Massachusetts governor may not need that level of support nationally if he can win a majority of votes from Hispanic Floridians.
“I don’t think he’s going to get that, and I don’t know that he’s going to need to,” Republican strategist Ana Navarro said. “He can win with much less than the 38 percent.”
In Florida, Romney leads President Barack Obama 49 percent to 46 percent among Latino voters. The state’s Hispanic community is diverse, with Navarro listing Colombians, Venezuelans and Puerto Ricans among the subgroups that have joined the reliably Republican Cuban Hispanic demographic as influential in this election.
“Candidates today have to do a lot more micro-targeting with Hispanic groups,” Navarro said. “With what we see today, I would say that President Obama is just off enough with enough groups where the lead he enjoyed with John McCain has gone away.”
Navarro was speaking at a briefing hosted by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials at the National Press Club Tuesday morning. The briefing focused on both Latino politicians and the Latino vote in the 2012 presidential race.
Obama leads Romney 70 percent to 25 percent among Latino likely voters nationally, according to an NBC/WSJ/Telemundo poll released before Monday night’s presidential debate. This is an improvement for Obama over his 67 percent to 31 percent lead among Latinos in the 2008 election against Sen. John McCain.
Romney, however, seems to have flipped the script in Florida. Obama led McCain 57 percent to 42 percent among Hispanics in the Sunshine State in 2008. It was the first time a majority of Latino voters in Florida voted for a Democratic presidential nominee since at least 1988, when exit polls were first conducted in the state.
Democratic strategist Maria Cardona thinks Obama could regain an edge among Latino voters in Florida because of the increasing youthfulness of the Hispanic population there.
“A lot of the Cubans there are a lot younger, so the [Cuban dictator] Fidel [Catro] issue is not the only issue,” Cardona said. “The race today is absolutely incredibly tight. In Florida, specifically, if President Obama can focus on the Hispanic vote successfully, I think he can take Florida.”
Outside of Florida, Cardona said the Latino vote would deliver electoral results for Obama, particularly in southwest states such as Nevada and New Mexico.
“President Obama today enjoys a lead in the battleground states due to the Latino vote,” Cardona said.
In the eight battleground states where Obama leads according to the Real Clear Politics polling average, only one of them, Nevada, has a more than 6 percent Latino population.
Real Clear Politics has Romney leading Obama among all voters nationally by less than one percentage point.
With the electoral implications of the Latino vote unclear, Navarro had a suggestion for how Latino voters could make their voices heard: “Some of those are going to have to bite the bullet and move to Ohio and New Hampshire,” she said to laughter.
Navarro also blamed Romney’s deficit among Latinos on Republican outreach efforts not peaking until after the Republican National Convention.
“The lesson learned here is that Hispanic outreach and efforts have to be long term, continuous and strenuous,” Navarro said.
National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Executive Director Arturo Vargas articulated the No. 1 reason both Republicans and Democrats need to stay focused on Latino outreach, saying, “Every 30 seconds, a Latino turns 18.”