It would be natural to assume that Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich would have an advantage over competitor Mitt Romney in attracting Hispanic voters, given that the former House speaker has a softer stance on immigration than the former Massachusetts governor.
But a new poll from Univision News/ABC News
shows that’s apparently not the case. Among likely Latino voters in the Jan. 31 Florida Republican primary, 49 percent favor Romney, compared to 23 percent for Gingrich, according to the survey. About 20 percent are undecided, offering Gingrich some hope.
Hispanic voters will be an important factor in Florida, because they account for about 10 percent of likely voters in the contest. Indeed, Hispanic voters played a major role in John McCain’s victory over Romney in the 2008 primary.
Among all Florida Latinos, Romney leads Gingrich 35 percent to 20 percent, with 21 percent undecided. Florida’s primary is open only to registered Republicans.
Gingrich has been unable to gain much momentum among Florida’s Hispanic voters from his upset victory in the South Carolina primary Saturday. On Sunday and Monday his support rose only 2 percentage points.
“I’m not seeing a significant bounce for Gingrich out of South Carolina in the sense that it’s not like he has passed Romney or anything,” Gary Segura, a principal at Latino Decisions, which conducted the poll, told ABC News. “Obviously Gingrich is doing much better than he was in November. Then he was at 4 percent nationally, now he’s at 15.”
Romney’s strongest support appears to come from Cuban-Americans, who account for almost one-third of the state’s 1.5 million Latino voters. Romney leads Gingrich 49 percent to 17 percent in that key group.
Romney has gained endorsements from some key Florida Republicans of Cuban heritage, including Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, and former Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart. They appeared in a Spanish-language ad released by the Romney campaign in Florida. The endorsements may be responsible for Romney’s lead, Segura said.
Among Puerto Ricans, the second-largest segment of Florida Latinos, Romney has a smaller advantage over Gingrich — 22 percent to 12 percent. And among voters with roots elsewhere in Latin America, Romney carries a 29 percent to 21 percent lead over Gingrich.
As for the general election, both Romney and Gingrich trail President Barack Obama among Florida Latinos and Latinos nationwide. Nationally Obama leads Romney 67 percent to 25 percent, and he leads Gingrich 70 percent to 22 percent.
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