Marco Rubio on Why Romney Needs a new Approach to the Latino Vote

By Alex Gonzalez 

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida talked with Candy about Romney and Republican efforts to woo the Hispanic vote.

 President Bush received 57% of the Latino vote in Florida in 2004 and President Obama received 58% of the Latino vote in 2008. This trend in Florida owns to changes that have been brewing recently. Sixty percent of non-Cuban Hispanics are Democrats in Florida.  There are 1,473,920 Hispanics registered to vote in Florida, representing 13.1% of all registered voters in the state. Of those, 452,619 are Republicans and 564,513 are Democrats.  Overall, Democrats have about 450,000 more registered voters that Republicans in Florida. Barak Obama won the state in 2008 by less than 200,000 votes.

But Betina Inclan, the national director of Hispanic outreach for the Republican National Committee, is not concerned about the numbers. She notes that the fastest growth is among independent Hispanics. “Even if they are deemed Democrats, we have seen that that doesn’t mean they are one party or the other. Latinos are looking for candidates that respect their values, respect their community and give them solutions,” Inclan said.

According to the Pew Hispanic Center review of elections data, South Florida continues to be a stronghold of Republican-leaning Hispanics, with 58% of all Republican Latinos in Florida living in Miami-Dade County. Thirty-four percent of the state’s Latino Democrats live there.  Just north of Miami, in Broward County, Latino Democrats outnumber Republicans by roughly 30,000. Further north in Palm Beach County, the ratio is two Democrats for each Republican. In the counties around Orlando, the Democratic majority is even wider, with a difference of almost 3-1 in Volusia County.

According to the Pew analysis, Puerto Ricans make up 28% of the Hispanic population in Florida, making them the second-largest Hispanic group in the state after Cuban-Americans. Mexican-Americans, who account for 59% of the eligible Hispanic voters in the United States, make up only 9% of the Latino vote in Florida.  Florida’s population is 23% Hispanic, There are 2.1 million eligible Hispanic voters in Florida. Some 16% of Florida’s eligible voters are Hispanic, and About one-half (49%) of the Hispanics in Florida are eligible to vote.

Consequently, and as Senator Rubio points out, what these numbers show is that it is becoming more difficult  for the Republican Candidates in Florida to woo Latinos in Florida.  It used to be that preaching anti-Castro rhetoric was sufficient to secure the Latino vote made-up traditionally of Cuban-Americans. However, the new composition of Latino voters in Florida made-up of second generation of Cuban-Americans and other Latino ethnic groups will force the Republican Party to broaden their platform to lure all Latino and generational groups.

 “They’re willing to vote for Republicans or Democrats on an election by election cycle. The number one issue in the Hispanic community, let’s be clear is economic empowerment.”

Sen. Rubio is correct that the Republican Party needs to broaden its appeal to lure Hispanics with other issues such jobs, the economy, education, and entitlements. But it is equally important, as Rubio now continually argues, that Mitt Romney adjust his views on immigration because non-Cuban Latinos outside Florida do pay attention to the tone used on immigration, especially in swing states like Colorado and Nevada.   More importantly, W. Bush received 57% of the Latino vote in Florida because he and on immigration platform that was economical sound, “compassionately” Republican, and good for Latino immigrants and their families.

So if Romney really wants to reduce the 40% gap currently between him and Obama among Latinos, He needs to take the “compassionate path.  Otherwise, Romney will not get the 57% in Florida, New Mexico, Nevada, and Colorado, all which are swing states.  The tone of the immigration debate might not resonate the same in Texas Latinos, where about 8 million of 9.5 million Latinos are of Mexican origin. So Romney indeed needs a new approach; and there is no other way around it if he really wants to become President.

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