President Obama’s campaign team has released several Spanish commercials this week set to air soon on TV in areas with high Latino populations. The commercials, which focus on strong women, education, and the vigor of Latin American communities, raise an issue that was bound to develop sooner or later: how will Hispanics vote in 2012?
There is little doubt that Obama will still carry the majority of Hispanic votes against Mitt Romney, but by how much is still very much in question.
In 2008, about one-third of those identifying as Latino voted for John McCain. If Romney can duplicate this, or even surpass it, President Obama will be in serious trouble.
How likely is that, though?
Republicans had been trending very well with Latinos in the past decade as an increasing portion of the community became small business owners, community leaders and experienced professionals. However, after a controversial Arizona law targeting anyone appearing to be an illegal immigrant was passed by Republicans in 2010 and opposition to the DREAM Act was strongly voiced by the party in 2011, many Hispanics have undergone second thoughts about the Grand Old Party.
Mitt Romney and his campaign team understand the backward steps their party has taken in the past two years and plan on correcting them. Romney, who interestingly enough has cousins living in Mexico where his father was born, has not taken many popular stances with Hispanic communities on immigration and amnesty.
Some possible ways Romney will try and counteract this will be to play up the strong family values many Latinos hold dear, have his son that is fluent in Spanish help campaign in Spanish speaking areas, and of course Romney’s ultimate hope, choose Florida Senator and son of Cuban immigrants Marco Rubio to be his Vice Presidential candidate.
If he can successfully utilize these tactics, there is a strong possibility for Romney to do well with the demographic.
According to an ABC/Washington Post poll close to 30% of Latinos will support Romney and an additional 30% have yet to make up their mind on the likely nominee. That gives Romney enough of an opportunity to make significant gains if he can effectively convince Latinos he will better serve their interests as President than Barack Obama.
It will be a tough argument for Romney to put forth, but it is one that is absolutely necessary for not only Romney, but also for the Republican Party as Latinos continue to grow as a share of the American population.