How Much Weight Does Fla. Latino Vote Carry In 2012 Election?

Sep 21, 2012

Florida’s Hispanic population makes up eight-percent of total people living in the United States, making it the third largest in the nation. That’s one of the reasons both President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney are making trips to Florida almost every week to capture the state’s large Hispanic population. Political experts say a big component to winning the overall election this year will be grabbing the Latino vote, especially in key battleground states, like Florida.

About a fourth of Florida’s population is Hispanic, and since experts say the 2012 Presidential election could come down to winning a majority of the Latino Vote, President Obama and GOP candidate Romney have held rallies, asked members of their families and politicians to campaign for them, and have taken to putting out Spanish-language ads on TV---all over the state of Florida. Here’s Obama’s ad about taking steps to help the economy:

Obama’s “De Eso Nada” Ad Translated in English:

Let’s talk facts. When President Obama took office our economy was on the verge of disaster. Hundreds of thousands of Americans lost their jobs every month. The policies of the last Republican President were disastrous. Obama stopped the crisis and we are recovering. And now Romney and Ryan ask us to return to the policies that caused the crisis. Back to the future? No way. Forward…. with Obama! I’m Barack Obama and I approve this message.”

And, here’s Romney’s ad with his son, Craig, talking about his dad’s stance on working toward a bi-partisan goal of immigration reform.

Romney’s “País de Inmigrantes” Translated in English: 

I’m Craig Romney, and I want to tell you what my dad, Mitt Romney, thinks. He values that we’re a nation of immigrants. My grandfather, George, was born in Mexico. For my family, the greatness of the United States lies in how we respect and help one another, regardless of where we’re from. As president, my dad would work towards a permanent solution to our immigration system with those on both sides of the aisle. I invite you to listen to him.”

“It looks more like they’ve been concentrating more on showing some Hispanic faces once in awhile, or having the candidates endorse that they are for Hispanics and say something in Spanish that they can’t really speak very well, and I’m referring specifically to Mr. Romney,” said Felipe Korzenny, the Director of Florida State University’s Center for Hispanic Marketing Communication.

Korzenny says it makes sense both candidates are paying attention to Florida’s large Hispanic population, but he says at this stage of the game, they should focus more on debates and explaining issues important to Hispanic voters, like health care, education, and the economy.

Jorge Lopez came to America from Mexico when he was six years old. He’s been in the U.S. for eighteen years and is now in the country legally with a wife and child. Lopez is also now a co-owner of Pepper’s Mexican Grill and Cantina in Tallahassee. He says while Spanish-language ads have their use, he says what it comes down to for him in this election is which candidate will focus on immigration reform, since he’s went through the current immigration system:

“I love and respect this country, more than my own,” said Lopez. “It gave me my child, my business, my life, everything. So, it’s a great opportunity, and a lot of people want to do that. But, I understand they can’t because they have to go through a procedure with the laws and everything. But, I think that if the person who’s going to win that I and my wife are going to vote for, it’s [immigration reform] going to happen.”

Immigration reform is one of the most important issues to many Hispanics, and it’s an issue that both presidential candidates recently talked about on Univision’s “Meet the Candidates” Forum to appeal to Hispanic voters.

In his appeal,President Obama admitted to the program’s hoststhat immigration reform was not among his achievements.

“Jorge, as you remind me, my biggest failure so far is we haven’t gotten immigration reform done, so we’ll continue to work on that,” said Obama. “But, it’s not for lack of trying or desire, and I’m confident we’re going to accomplish that.”

Meanwhile, answering claims on how he plans to deal with the country’s immigration system, Romney promised he’s not going to start deporting people.

“I said during my primary campaign, time and again, we’re not going to round up 12-million people,” said Romney. “That includes the kids and the parents and have everyone deported. Our system isn’t to deport people. We need to provide a long-term solution.”

So far, President Obama has a lead over Romney in general in the polls, and Hispanic Marketing Director Korzenny says Romney could slip further behind with Hispanics, after he was secretly taped making remarks joking about wanting to be Latino and that he’s not worried about the 47-percent who won’t vote for him.

“Of course, it doesn’t help Mr. Romney with some of his remarks, talking about people who don’t pay taxes and want to get entitlements and do nothing, and all that kind of stuff,” said Korzenny. “All that arrogant kind of elitist perspective doesn’t help.”

Romney, however, has said he sticks by those remarks, even though they were not elegantly stated. And, now he says he’s concerned about the 100-percent.

Mexicans make up the largest Hispanic population in the United States, and they tend to vote Democratic, but few are eligible to vote in Florida. About 30-percent of eligible Hispanic voters in Florida are Puerto Ricans, and Korzenny says they could go either way between both candidates and have more leanings toward Democrats.

The largest segment of eligible Hispanic Voters in Florida are Cubans at 32-percent. But, while they normally tend to vote Republican, Korzenny says recent polls are showing President Obama with a lead over Romney in picking up Cuban voters. He says he believes it’s because rich Cubans from the Castro-era are getting older, and they tended to vote Republican. And, now, Mr. Obama’s message is reaching the younger, less affluent Cubans.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on twitter @scordner.