Florida Latino voters cannot complain of a lack of attention during this frenetic campaign season. Republican nominee Mitt Romney campaigned in Tampa, and then was going to Miami and then Jacksonville, while Vice President Biden campaigned in Sarasota and was then going to Ocala – and this is just today.
What is more, both campaigns are touting increasing Latino enthusiasm and participation in Florida on an almost daily basis. “I would say the parties are purposely doing that, that’s their job, they’re supposed to be trying to put on a positive show at this late hour,” says University of Washington political scientist Matt Barreto.
What is not in dispute is that Florida – and Florida’s Latino voters – do matter. “Just from population growth alone, there will be more Latino voters in Florida, and this is significant as it is one of the key battleground states,” says Barreto, who is a co-principal in the polling firm Latino Decisions.
Labor activist Jose La Luz, who has been campaigning for Obama and the Democrats in central Florida for a good part of the year, takes Florida Latino voter participation one step further. “Central Florida is the battleground within the battleground,” says La Luz, explaining that northern Florida will go Republican, Southern Florida Democratic (though the Cuban-American vote is predominantly Republican), so the real battle is in central Florida.
“And here in central Florida, says La Luz, the Puerto Rican community is going to deliver the nation to President Obama,” he says enthusiastically. “I am going door to door, and 7 out of 10 Puerto Rican and Latino voters here are telling me they are supporting President Obama,” he says. La Luz says they are planning caravans for this weekend, “like in Puerto Rico,” he adds, and he says Obama’s national political director, Katharine Archuleta, recently came to the area and publicly acknowledged the increasing participation of the state’s growing Puerto Rican voters.
Latino Republicans have been pointing out what they also see as increasing enthusiasm for their candidate, Mitt Romney.
“I think we are going to win Florida and the I4 corridor hands down among Latino voters,” says Romney’s campaign organizer in Central Florida Bertica Cabrera Morris. “We’re voting our principles, which are all about small business, and many of us are also anti-abortion and same-sex marriage,” she adds, “our kids don’t have jobs, and Obama has not resolved that.”
What about polls on Florida’s Latinos and their voter preferences? A new Florida International University/Miami Herald/El Nuevo Herald poll says Obama has a slim lead among Florida’s Latinos, 51 percent to 47 percent. Latino Decisions’ Matt Barreto, explains that this poll is done by ‘robo-calling’ – which is an inexpensive way to poll, because it involves automated calls to landline phones only. This misses cell phone users and young Latinos. In South Florida, Latinos with land line phones are predominantly in the older and more established Cuban community, which does tend to vote more Republican. They are only 35 percent of the Florida’s Latino voters.
“This poll is not quite up to speed with the intricacies of weighting and response rate, and that is what makes me nervous about these polls,” says Barreto. “What I would say, as someone polling independently, is that based on our weekly tracking, the Latino vote in Florida is trending more heavily toward Obama, and I don’t see any evidence that Florida Latinos are shifting to Romney,” adds Barreto.
Regardless of the polls, both parties will be actively campaigning for Florida’s Latino vote, whether it’s taking them to polls to participate in early voting or convincing them to go vote on November 6th.