Vernon Hills, Ill. – Mitt Romney zeroed in Sunday night on two demographic groups that could play a pivotal role in the fall -- Latinos and young voters.
Romney, making his pitch to Illinois voters ahead of Tuesday's primary, highlighted his victory Sunday in Puerto Rico as an indication that the Republican Party can pick up Latino votes and tried to attract the younger set with pledges to cut government spending.
"Those people who don't think that Latinos will vote for a Republican need to take a look in Puerto Rico," Romney said, touting the territory's Republican Gov. Luis Fortuño -- who endorsed Romney -- and some of the island's tax provisions.
"Hispanic voters are going to vote for Republicans if we stand for something -- conservative principles that bring growth and good jobs and rising home values," Romney said. "I intend to become our nominee and I intend to get Latino voters to vote for a Republican."
Hispanics are sure to play a crucial role in both parties' general election strategies. President Barack Obama carried 67 percent of Latino voters in 2008. But Republicans believe they can siphon Hispanic votes away from the president, helped along by a weak economy that has hit Latinos particularly hard.
Young voters may also provide an opening in the fall. They voted for Obama by a two-to-one margin in 2008 but some have grown disenchanted.
"I don't understand how a young person today can vote for President Obama, I have to be honest with you," Romney said in a town hall event Sunday. "They get all excited about it."
Romney was responding to voter who identified himself as a moderate and asked the candidate why he should cast a ballot for Romney instead of Obama.
Romney cited the growing federal debt and said the younger generation would be punished with higher interest rates and higher taxes unless the government cut spending, as he pledged to do.
"You're going to see taxes that are going to be paying debt, not for what you got, not for the benefits you received, but for what we got," Romney said. "You're going to see massive, massive obligations, which may crush your capacity to ever achieve your dreams."
It will be a challenge for Republicans to pick up a significant share of younger voters, but it may be enough to shrink Obama's margins or feed the younger generation's disillusionment with the president so they are not inclined to vote at all.