Hispanic voters could well decide Florida
Angel Castillo Jr.Who wins Florida's crucial 29 electoral votes in next month's presidential election may well come down to who can best woo Hispanic voters.
Published: October 6, 2012
Published: October 6, 2012
Multiple national polls show an overwhelming majority of African-American voters, and a majority of unmarried women and young voters, will vote to re-elect President Obama.
By contrast, more white men and older voters will vote for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
Among Hispanics, national polls show 73 percent of eligible voters prefer the president, up from the 68 percent who voted for him in 2008.
But don't think the support among Hispanic voters nationwide translates to Florida.
According to Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner, about 14 percent of Florida's more than 11.4 million voters are Hispanic. These include 592,434 Democrats, 463,298 Republicans and 469,288 independents.
While the nation's largest Hispanic population is of Mexican origin — followed by those of Puerto Rican, Cuban, Salvadoran, Dominican and Guatemalan descent — Florida's eligible Hispanic voters have a different profile. Almost a third are of Cuban origin, 28 percent are of Puerto Rican origin and only 9 percent are of Mexican descent.
Because of Florida's ethnic mix, Hispanic voters here have long favored Republican candidates, in contrast to Democratic-friendly Hispanic voters in other states. This phenomenon is largely due to the disproportionate GOP tilt of Cuban-American voters.
In the U.S. Senate race two years ago, for instance, 55 percent of Hispanic voters supported Republican Marco Rubio over independent Charlie Crist (25 percent) and Democrat Kendrick Meek (20 percent.)
And in the last gubernatorial election, 50 percent of Hispanic voters chose Republican Rick Scott, while 48 percent supported Democrat Alex Sink.
A poll released late last month by Public Policy Polling of Raleigh, after the dissemination of the Romney "47 percent dependent upon government" video, showed the president barely ahead among Florida's Hispanic voters. The president was leading by two percentage points, 49 to 47 percent — within the poll's 3.3 percent margin of error. By contrast, non-Hispanic white voters here preferred Romney, 53-42, while African-Americans preferred Obama over Romney, 87-8.
The same poll showed 94 percent of Florida's Hispanic voters are enthusiastic and "excited" about voting in November, compared to 88 percent of African-American voters and 81 percent of non-Hispanic whites. So if you know any Hispanic voters whom you want to urge to vote for your preferred presidential candidate, this would be a good time to say "Buenos días" and have a friendly chat about the issues. The conversation may well make a difference as to whether Obama or Romney carries Florida next month, give or take a chad.
Angel Castillo, Jr., a former reporter and editor for the New York Times and The Miami Herald, practices employment law in Miami. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.