Mitt Romney is still stuck in a deep hole with Latino voters, according to a new poll, even as his campaign begins a new effort to reach out to the community for the general election.
President Obama leads Romney 66 percent to 23 percent among registered Latino voters, according to a new poll by Latino Decisions, in line with his 67 percent to 31 percent margin over John McCain in 2008.
Romney tacked hard to the right on immigration during the Republican primary, allying himself with Kris Kobach, architect of harsh legislation cracking down on illegal immigrants in Arizona and Alabama, and pledging to veto the DREAM Act, which would grant a path to citizenship for some illegal immigrants who serve in the military or attend college. According to the poll, some 87 percent of Latinos support the DREAM Act written by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and supported by Democrats that Republicans filibustered in 2010.
Romney has picked up his outreach to Latino voters, but without walking back any of his positions from the primary — or even discussing immigration much at all. Instead, he’s focused almost entirely on jobs when making his pitch to the Hispanic community, and has expanded his Spanish-language press releases and advertising to convey that message.
“The Hispanic community cannot afford four more years of double-digit unemployment and higher levels of poverty,” read one press statement from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) on Romney’s behalf last week, released in both Spanish and English. “Mitt Romney will stop the attacks on job creators, encourage entrepreneurs to chase their dreams, and bring good jobs and a better future to all Americans.”
Last week, Romney launched a new Hispanic Steering Committee, “Juntos Con Romney,” chaired by former Bush Commerce Secretary Carlos Guttierez. Immigration was never mentioned in any of the press materials announcing its creation.
In addition, Romney is ratcheting up the red-meat rhetoric for Cuban voters. He recently bashed the White House for granting a travel visa to Raul Castro’s daughter. Cuban Americans are historically a GOP constituency and crucial in must-win Florida, but they represent only a small minority of the overall Latino population nationwide.
One possible route to moderation for Romney may be offered up by Rubio, who is working on an alternative to the DREAM Act that could offer a path to legal status for some illegal immigrants but not citizenship. Especially if Romney chooses Rubio as his running mate, it could be his biggest chance to tack to the center for the general election. But the latest Latino Decisions poll showed that voters were skeptical of the watered-down bill offered by Rubio, with only 49 percent supporting the basic concept and 46 percent opposed.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.