Poll shows Latinos strongly favor Democrats for 2016

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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The two leading Democratic 2016 candidates for the White House trounce GOP candidates among Latino voters, including the two GOP politicians now prominently working to build Latino support, according to a new poll.

The nation’s second-most prominent Democrat, Hillary Clinton, scored a 73 percent “somewhat” or very” favorable response from the 1,200 voters, despite having no legislative accomplishments that have helped Hispanics.

Vice President Joe Biden got a 58 percent favorability rating, and can claim a role in Obamacare and the current amnesty effort, which are strongly supported by Latinos.

But Republican Gov. Jeb Bush gets only 27 percent of “very” or “somewhat” favorable support, and a 39 percent unfavorable response, even though he was popular among Latinos during his tenure as governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007. Like many other business-minded Republicans, he now supports the Senate’s immigration rewrite, partly because it increases the inflow of workers.

Bush’s ally, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, only gets a 31 percent favorable response, and a 29 percent unfavorable response, despite his Cuban background and his high-profile effort to win GOP support for the Senate’s controversial new law.

New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie scored well among Latinos, hitting 35 percent support, and getting only a 12 percent unfavorable reaction.

Unlike Bush or Rubio, he’s got a populist image, and he’s repeatedly suggested he supports some kind of amnesty for the 11 million illegals in the country. He hasn’t pushed the issue from the governor’s mansion, however.

The poll of 1,200 Latino voters was conducted by Latino Decisions, a Democratic-associated polling firm. It was funded by America’s Voice, a lobbying group that is now pushing to win passage of the Senate immigration bill.

In 2012, Gov. Mitt Romney scored 27 percent of the Latino vote, which was described by some GOP activists as disastrous. President Barack Obama won 71 percent.

In the poll, Obama scored a 75 percent approval rate, despite a lousy economy that has kept many Latinos struggling to make a living. He’s frequently associated himself with Latinos, and is now aggressively pushing the Senate amnesty bill.

Obama got a 22 percent unfavorable reaction. Biden got a 21 percent unfavorable score, while Clinton got only a 17 percent negative response. Their unfavorable ratings may the GOP’s 20 percent floor in the Latino vote.

The highest any GOP candidate has done among Latinos was President George W. Bush, who reached a 40 percent share in 2004.

But that record score was won by a sitting president during a housing boom that was intended to help woo Latinos, who was running against a stiff-necked, wealthy WASP from Massachusetts.

The Latino vote includes distinct groups of Mexicans, Cubans, Puerto Ricans and others.

“Latinos are a majority liberal constituency,” Gary Segura, co-founder of the polling firm Latino Decisions said in March. “They favor larger taxes on a higher-income persons; they favor larger taxes on businesses and corporations,” he told National Public Radio.

Democrats say they’re confident they can keep Latinos on their side.

“Let me tell you something. The Hispanic voters in Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico don’t give a damn about Marco Rubio, the Tea Party Cuban-American from Florida,” Obama’s 2008 campaign manager told the New York Times in February.

“The bigger problem they’ve got with Latinos isn’t immigration. It’s their economic policies and health care. The group that supported the president’s health care bill the most? Latinos,” said David Plouffe.

“So this notion that Marco Rubio is going to heal their problems — it’s not even sophomoric; it’s juvenile!” Plouffe declared.

In June, Jeb Bush used a D.C. event to pitch his “muscular government” strategy for winning Hispanic votes.

“If we just play the game where we are for less government [and say] ‘We don’t believe in muscular government,’ that message is not aspirational, it is not very hopeful, it’s not particularly optimistic and we could lose,” he said.

“My guess is that the [party’s] messaging will change, and we could garner significant support amongst immigrants from Africa, from Asia, from Latin America.”

He also lauded diversity, and reminded listeners of his Mexican-born wife. “That [diversity] is the unique American experience that I have had the blessing, truly a blessing, to be able to experience in a way that adds a tremendous amount of vitality to my life,” he said.

Other GOP advocates, however, say the GOP can win in 2016 if it holds 30 percent among Latinos and also boosts support among lower-income white voters, many of whom did not vote in 2008 or 2012. White votes comprised roughly 74 percent of the electorate in 2012. Hispanic voters comprised 8.5 percent, but at expected to reach 10 percent in 2016.

The poll showed that little-known GOP candidates were stuck at or under 20 percent approval, partly because almost half of the respondents had no opinion or had not heard of the politicians.

Rep. Paul Ryan, Gov. Mitt Romney’s running mate, scored at 20 percent favorability.

Sen. Rand Paul got 18 percent.

Former Sen. Rick Santorum got 17 percent.

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