Latino voters in Florida. (Getty Images/Gaston De Cardenas)

Latino voters in Florida. (Getty Images/Gaston De Cardenas)

Republican target: 38 percent of Latinos, but new GOP immigration platform an issue, say experts

Romney advisers have hit on a target goal of 38 percent of the Latino vote in order to win the White House this November, according to a report today in The Hill. José Fuentes,  a former attorney general of Puerto Rico who is one of three co-chairmen of the Juntos Con Romney leadership team, said to The Hill their goal is to do better than 2008 Republican presidential candidate John McCain, who got 31 percent of the Latino vote.  At the upcoming Republican National Convention in Tampa, the GOP is giving Latinos a visible role in the high-profile event, having Puerto Rico First Lady Luce Vela Fortuño introduce Ann Romney, and Florida Senator Marco Rubio introduce Governor Mitt Romney the last night of the convention, when he formally accepts the presidential nomination.

Latest NBC News/WSJ/Telemundo Poll: Obama Up Big Among Latinos

Polls show  it is an uphill climb for the GOP as it tries to garner a larger share of Hispanic voters. The latest numbers still show President Obama leading Romney among Latinos by about a two-to-one margin. And the recent GOP platform language on immigration will not be a help, according to Arizona State political scientist Rodolfo Espino. “The GOP has suffered a ‘black eye’ in terms of the way they have treated Latinos, mainly though their stance on immigration issues,” he says.

The Republican platform committee voted to add language presented by Kris Kobach, the architect of Arizona’s SB1070 law.  The GOP platform includes an end to in-state tuition for undocumented students as well as the completion of the border fence, and an end to sanctuary cities. It also said laws like Arizona’s SB1070 should be encouraged. Controversial Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio is scheduled to speak at the convention, and “Latina Freedom Riders” including former Republican Dee Dee Blase from the National Tequila Party have announced they will travel to Tampa to protest.

“If other demographic groups stay constant for Republicans, then 38 percent is a pretty reasonable target for Latinos, since it would  make battleground states more competitive,” says Rodolfo Espino, an associate professor of political science at Arizona State University. “They have lost voters in recent years, however, through their immigration positions,” Espino adds.

The Romney campaign, as well as the RNC, has been holding events with Latino politicians and Latino business leaders in different states, stressing Romney’s economic message as more favorable to Latino small business owners and families. During the convention, the GOP’s outreach to Hispanics will mainly focus on the economy, the role of family and social values and the emphasis on smaller government. The question is whether the messages aimed at Hispanic voters will resonate beyond immigration issues at the forefront of the convention — and the campaign.

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