President Obama's approval numbers have slipped a bit with Hispanic voters, according to excerpts from a new poll conducted by Resurgent Republic, a well-regarded Republican group, and the Hispanic Leadership Network in three Latino-heavy swing states: Florida, New Mexico and Colorado.
Obama leads a generic Republican candidate by 46 percent to 36 percent in Florida among Hispanics, down from the 57 percent to 42 percent edge he had with that group in 2008 in a swing state he won by less than three percentage points. In New Mexico, where Obama won 69 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2008, he leads an unnamed "generic Republican" candidate by 58 percent to 28 percent. His numbers with Hispanics in Colorado have remained strong, however: He took 61 percent of the Hispanic vote there in 2008, and leads a generic Republican candidate by 59 percent to 27 percent.
Hispanics have driven much of the population growth in the three states over the past decade, and will likely be larger percentages of the 2012 electorate than they were in 2008. Obama's plunging numbers among white voters means he needs to carry the Latino vote by margins similar to those in 2008 to win these states.
Hispanic voters could come back to the president if Republicans continue to discuss hardline immigration stances in their primary, although Texas Gov. Rick Perry is a bit more centrist on such issues, and generic candidates generally do better against incumbents than specific ones. Still, these numbers suggest Obama will need to make a big push to court Hispanic voters.
Obama's Florida numbers should concern the president, although Hispanics in the state are different from those elsewhere — many are Cubans who have traditionally voted Republican, while Dominicans and Puerto Ricans make up much of the rest of the state's Hispanic population, unlike in the Southwestern states, where the Hispanic communities are predominantly of Mexican descent.