Hispanic Americans, the fastest growing minority group in the United States, favor President Barack Obama over presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney by a huge margin, a potentially decisive factor in the Nov. 6 election.
They could tip the vote in the president’s favor in key swing states like Colorado, Nevada and Florida. What’s more, the Hispanic vote could put once-solidly Republican Arizona in play for Obama.
Hispanic voters historically have sided with Democratic presidential candidates out of a sense that the party best handled the immigration issue, which tops their list of concerns. They appear to be sticking with Obama despite his record-setting deportation of illegal immigrants. The Department of Homeland Security shows that since 2009 the number of deportations has approached 400,000 each year, well above the number during the George W. Bush presidency.
In the latest poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, Obama overwhelms Romney by 67 percent to 27 percent among Hispanic registered voters. That support matches the 67 percent of the Hispanic vote Obama captured in 2008.
During Republican primary debates, Romney said that “the right course for America is to drop these lawsuits against Arizona. . . . I’ll also complete the (border) fence. I’ll make sure we have enough border patrol agents to secure the fence, and I’ll make sure we . . . require employers to check the documents of workers.”
Romney also opposes the Democrats’ Dream Act legislation that would allow a path to citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants if they serve in the military or go to college.
Perhaps the biggest question about Hispanic preferences arises in Florida, one that could prove key to the hopes of both candidates.
Mark Lopez of the Pew Hispanic center cites “changing demographics” there, which show more Hispanics registering as Democrats in the last two elections. In the past, the Florida Hispanic population had been dominated by Cubans, who are heavily Republican given that party’s history of a greater antagonism to Communist revolutionary leader Fidel Castro and his successor and brother, Raul.
But Puerto Ricans are a fast-growing part of the Hispanic community there and they overwhelmingly back Democrats.
In a hypothetical head-to-head general election matchup with Obama, 40 percent of Florida Hispanics said they would vote for Romney, while 50 percent prefer Obama, according to a Univision News/ABC News poll from late January.
The poll found that Florida Cubans side with Romney over Obama 54 percent to 34 percent, while Puerto Ricans back Obama 67 percent to 23 percent.