How Romney Won Florida’s Latino Vote
As Mitt Romney dominated the Florida Republican primary Tuesday night, he also captured the bulk of the votes from Latinos in the state, with 54% of their ballots. But how did he pull that off?
His victory could be seen as somewhat surprising for a candidate with a tough stance on immigration, who promised that if he were president, he’d veto the Dream Act that would legalize young undocumented adults who came to the United States as children if they attend college, join the armed forces or meet other requirements.
But Romney’s methodology for winning their votes reveals a more focused, calculated approach to securing the fastest-growing voter demographic in the state and the country, and could prove to be a hurdle for President Obama in the general election.
Major issues for Latino voters Romney: GOP is ‘pro citizenship’
So, how did Romney persuade Florida Latinos to vote for him? Take a look at his ad strategy. Newt Gingrich, his main opponent in Florida, who received just 29% of the Latino vote, had taken a position on immigration seen as less stringent than Romney’s. He proposed that older immigrants who have been in the U.S. for a long time should be able to stay. But it wasn’t enough to secure their votes.
Meanwhile, Gingrich faced a tsunami of negative radio and TV ads in Hispanic media outlets, including one where Romney himself attacked the former House speaker for suggesting that Spanish was the “language of the ghetto.” And that, coupled with the millions of dollars spent by a pro-Romney super PAC, probably sealed his fate.
But Florida isn’t necessarily a reflection of the rest of Hispanic America. The state has 1,473,920 registered voters who identify themselves as Hispanic, about 13% of the state’s voters. Of those, 564,513 are registered as Democrats, 452,619 as Republicans, and 431,131 report no party affiliation.
Of the state’s Hispanic Republicans — the only ones who could vote in Tuesday’s primary — about half live in Miami-Dade County, and they account for 72% of all Republicans in that county. Romney was particularly strong in South Florida, had a solid ground organization and won the majority of the Cuban vote there.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who chairs the powerful House Foreign Affairs Committee, and her Republican colleague Rep. Mario Diaz Balart both supported Romney but are also supporters of immigration reform. They said they differed with Romney on immigration but thought his tough message on Cuba was consistent with what is expected for Republican candidates who visit and court South Florida Republicans.