GOP candidates scramble for Latino vote in Florida primary

Posted on: January 25th, 2012 by The American Independent No Comments

Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, who lead the GOP presidential primary race, are in Florida working to earn the Latino vote for next week’s primary election, the first one in which the Latino voter is important.

Univision, ABC and Latino Decisions released two new polls of the Latino electorate Wednesday, asking about the “vote choice among likely Republican primary voters, [the] favorability ratings for all candidates” and “issues such as the economy, immigration, health care, and perceptions of party outreach to Hispanics.”

The poll indicates that if the Florida Republican primary were held today, 35 percent of Latino voters would favor Romney and 20 percent would vote for Gingrich. Santorum would get 7 percent of the vote and Ron Paul 6 percent.

The results show that 33 percent of Florida Latino voters said they have a very favorable to somewhat favorable impression of Gingrich, while 37 percent have a somewhat unfavorable to very unfavorable impression of him. Favorability ratings for Romney show that 40 percent of the voters have a very favorable to somewhat favorable impression of the former Massachusetts governor, while 31 percent go from somewhat unfavorable to very unfavorable.

Eighteen percent of voters said they had never heard of Gingrich, 17 percent had never heard of Romney, 24 percent had never heard of  Paul and 35 percent had never heard of Santorum.

The poll also shows that Latino registered voters in Florida responded that immigration reform and the DREAM Act (43 percent), creating more jobs (36 percent), and fixing the economy (28 percent) ”are the most important issues facing the Latino community” that Congress and the president should address.

Immigration continues to come up as an issue Republicans and Democrats need to address when seeking the Latino vote.

The Miami Herald reports today that after Sen. Marco Rubio scolded Gingrich’s presidential campaign for calling Romney “anti-immigrant,” the former Speaker’s “campaign said it would pull the radio ad out of ‘respect for the senator’s wishes.’”

This just two days ahead of the Hispanic Leadership Conference, hosted by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and featuring Rubio, Romney, Gingrich and Santorum.

Romney said this week that ”he favors self-deportation over policies that would require the federal government to round up millions of illegal immigrants and send them back to their home countries. Advocates of Romney’s approach argue that illegal immigration can be curbed by denying public benefits to them, forcing them to leave the United States on their own.”

Gingrich also this week spoke “about border control and establishing a guest-worker program to better manage the influx of immigrants. Gingrich said he favors a path to citizenship for illegal immigrant children who serve in the military but not for simply completing college.”

The Herald adds that

Rubio plans to stay neutral in the race. He’s a potential running mate whom both candidates would love to have on the ballot. And he’s gaining iconic status among many national Republicans who see him as a face of the future in a nation that’s growing more Latino.

The ABC/Univision/Latino Decisions poll shows that in California, 45 percent of Latino voters have never heard of Rubio, in Texas that number is 39 percent, in New York/New Jersey it is 38 percent and in other states it is 40 percent.

During a conference call held this week, Arturo Carmona of Presente.org said his organization’s “focus on the Latino vote will begin of course in Florida, a state meriting attention because of the very serious possibility that Florida Sen. Marco Rubio may be the GOP vice presidential candidate.”

Carmona said that “91 percent of Latinos support the DREAM Act, 88 percent support a path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants, 81 percent of Latinos oppose S.B. 1070,” adding that Rubio is a “major threat to our community” because he has “spoken out against immigration reform and the DREAM Act, and other issues impacting Latinos.”

Carmona highlighted Rubio’s “very close links to the tea party,” adding that Presente will “be paying special attention to the GOP and Rubio’s ties to the tea party and other anti-immigrant groups.”

When asked about Rubio’s profile in other states, Isabel Garcia of the Coalición de Derechos Humanos said, “in Arizona Marco Rubio is an unknown.”

“Immigration is going to be a major obstacle for Marco Rubio,” Carmona added.

“It will be interesting to see the Puerto Rican reaction to Rubio down the road,” Angelo Falcon of the National Institute for Latino Policy said, “because he opposed the appointment of Mari Carmen Aponte to the ambassadorship of El Salvador. She’s Puerto Rican, and that created a backlash from Puerto Rican organizations. And he also opposed the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor also Puerto Rican to the Supreme Court.”

“What most Latinos outside of Florida have to say about Marco Rubio is nothing,” Gary Segura, a professor at Stanford University and the co-founder of Latino Decisions, said. He added that if Rubio is “chosen for a running mate there would have to be an education campaign by both parties — the Republicans wanting to construct a campaign to paint him in one light and the Democrats in another.”

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