By Griselda Nevárez, Voxxi
President Barack Obama has stretched his lead over his presumptive Republican opponent Mitt Romney among Latino voters in the key battleground states of Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Nevada and Virginia, according to a poll released Friday.
The poll taken by Latino Decisions and America’s Voice shows Obama enjoys a 63 percent to 27 percent lead over Romney among Latino voters in the five states combined. All five states are expected to be up for grabs in the November election. Political observers say Latino voters in those states could decide the outcome.
The biggest lead for Obama is in Arizona where 74 percent of registered Latino voters say they favor the president while 18 percent prefer Romney. In Florida, Obama leads 53 percent to 37 percent; in Colorado he is favored 70 percent to 22 percent; in Nevada 69 percent to 20 percent; and in Virginia 59 percent to 28 percent.
In the 2008 presidential election, 67 percent of the Latino vote went to Obama and 31 percent to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). To win this election, analysts agree that Romney needs at least 40 percent of the Latino vote. But critics say that could only happen if Romeny softens his tough tone on immigration — an approach he seemed to begin Thursday in addressing a conference of the National Association of Latino Elected & Appointed Officials.
Latino Decisions suggests Obama’s significant lead is due to his recent announcement to defer the deportation of 800,000 undocumented youth and allow them to apply for work permits.
New polling data gathered June 17-21 by America’s Voice and Latino Decisions found that Latino voters largely support Obama’s policy change. Of the 2,000 Latinos surveyed, 58 percent said they are now more enthusiastic about Obama, while 9 percent said they are less enthusiastic.
In an effort to gain support from Latinos, Romney has been departing from the hard-line immigration positions he took in the primaries. On different occasions, the Republican candidate said he backed Arizona’s tough immigration law and believed strict enforcement would make undocumented workers “self-deport.”
On Wednesday, while speaking at the 29th annual conference of NALEO, Romney told the largely Hispanic audience that “immigration reform is not just a moral imperative, but an economic necessity as well.”
He spoke about his immigration reform plan – one that would secure the border, make it harder for immigrants to overstay their visas, implement a mandatory employment verification system, legalize undocumented young immigrants who enlist in the military and improve the temporary worker visa program.
Though the former Massachusetts governor didn’t say whether he would reverse Obama’s temporary relief from deportation for undocumented youth, he said, “I will put in place my own long-term solution that will replace and supersede the president’s temporary measure. As president, I won’t settle for a stop-gap measure. I will work with Republicans and Democrats to find a long-term solution.”
The next day, Obama addressed the same crowd. He reminded Latinos that Romney has promised to veto the DREAM Act, a law that would pave a path to citizenship for undocumented youth who complete either two years of college or military service.
The president defended his decision to protect undocumented youth from deportation saying, “It was the right thing to do.” He added, “It’s not amnesty. It falls short of where we need to be – a path to citizenship. It’s not a permanent fix. This is a temporary measure that lets us focus our resources wisely while offering some justice to these young people.”
Obama also renewed his call for a broader immigration reform saying, “What’s also needed is immigration reform that finally lives up to our heritage as a nation of laws and as a nation of immigrants, and continues the American story of renewal and energy and dynamism that’s made us who we are.”
This article was first published in Voxxi.
Griselda Nevárez is a reporter with Hispanic Link News Service in Washington D.C.
[Photo by Joe Crimmings Photography]