Fight for Latino vote heats up

January 26, 2012 9:03:09 PM PST
In the presidential race, the battle for the Latino vote is intensifying. A new Univision-ABC News poll shows Mitt Romney with a 15-percent lead over Newt Gingrich among Latinos, but keep it in mind that 21-percent are still undecided.

Republicans will be fighting tooth-and-nail for those votes right up until the June primary. All week the Republicans have battled for primary votes in Florida and Thursday, President Barack Obama came west to Nevada. Both Florida and Nevada are considered swing states and both have a lot of Latino voters -- the fastest growing voting bloc in America.

Newt Gingrich pleased a Cuban-American crowd in Miami by talking about his disdain for Fidel Castro.

"There will not be a succession to Castro. We are, in fact, not going to allow a negative future of a new generation of dictators replacing the Castro brothers," said Gingrich.

Latinos make up roughly one in 10 Republican voters in the Sunshine State. Both campaigns are taking to the Spanish airwaves. One Gingrich radio ad calls Mitt Romney the most anti-immigration candidate.

Romney attacked Gingrich in an ad that said, "And Reagan definitely would have never offended us, Hispanics, as Gingrich did by saying that Spanish is the language of the ghetto."

In recent days, Romney has softened his tough position on illegal immigration. At Monday's debate, he said he could support portions of the Dream Act. Romney had previously said he would veto the bill. And he offered up a unique alternative to mass deportations.

When asked if you don't deport them, how do you send them home? And Romney replied, "The answer is self-deportation."

Gingrich mocked that comment at a forum with Univision.

"Oh, I just can I ask you a question? How close are you to breaking up laughing out loud at this fantasy?" said Gingrich.

Right now Romney is leading the race in Florida among Latinos, but not in California. Leo Lacayo is the chairman of the San Francisco Hispanic Republican Assembly.

"Cuban-Americans tend to be highly more conservative and support hard immigration laws whereas your California Hispanic, Republican especially, wants a solution that includes a path to citizenship, the dream vote, all the bells and whistles that a winning presidential candidate must have regardless of party," said Lacayo.

ABC7's political analyst Bruce Cain, Ph.D., also believes the GOP race would still be in play when it got to California.

"I wouldn't bet the family farm on it, but I think it's quite possible that it could end up being decided ultimately in California, at least in terms of the delegates," said Cain.

It's no surprise Obama was in Nevada Thursday -- a state he won four years ago with the strong support of Latinos who account for 17 percent of voters, while the first lady courted Latino voters in Florida. And if and the state's GOP chair are right Californians may have a big say this June in deciding who the GOP candidate is with Latino voters getting a lot of attention from the candidates.