Florida’s Crucial Hispanic Voters Remain Wary of Romney
If Mitt Romney is to overcome his problem with Hispanic voters, he is going to have to start by changing a lot of minds in central Florida.
A crucial battleground in a vital swing state, the region is home to growing numbers of non-Cuban Hispanics who have always been viewed by Republicans as open to their economic and social views but deterred from backing the party in part because of its position on illegal immigration. With Romney having taken especially hawkish stances on immigration during the primary season, he and his campaign are now trying to shift the debate to what they feel will be friendlier terrain — jobs.
But the challenge here in central Florida is clear. Gladys Thayer, a native of Panama who is a registered Republican, is receptive to Romney’s message on the economy, but did not like his tough talk on immigration.
“I definitely think he needs to lean more towards helping the Hispanic community,” said Thayer, a real estate agent, who has not decided if she will vote for Romney in November.
Romney acknowledged his problem with voters like Thayer when he told donors in Florida recently that if President Barack Obama keeps his commanding advantage among Latinos, it “spells doom for us.” He campaigned this week with Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, a Cuban-American, and signaled Monday that he may be open to compromise on the Dream Act, a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children.
But whether Romney can make real inroads among Hispanic voters here and in swing states across the nation remains an open question. Though Cuban-Americans in south Florida favored the Republican candidate, John McCain, in 2008, Obama won 57 percent of Hispanic votes in the state thanks to Puerto Ricans and immigrants from Latin America.