Mitt Romney hopes to win more Latino votes this November than John McCain did in his unsuccessful 2008 presidential bid.
The Romney campaign has set a target of 38 percent of Latino votes nationally, The Hill reports. That figure represents an ambitious goal for Romney, who has rarely prioritized Latino voters and has alienated some by taking a hard line on immigration.
"Our goal is to do better than four years ago and the McCain campaign did — our goal is to hit 38 percent with the Hispanic vote," Jose Fuentes, a co-chairman of Romney’s Latino leadership team told The Hill, which first reported the story. "That's our goal. That's our national average."
That figure marks a significant jump from the 31 percent that John McCain won in 2008, and closes in on the 40 percent that George W. Bush got when he was re-elected in 2004. Romney currently polls at 31.5 among Latinos, according to an average of survey data compiled by Talking Points Memo.
Romney took a hard stance on immigration during the GOP primary, saying he would veto the DREAM Act and favor policies to make it so hard for undocumented immigrants to find work that they would “self-deport.”
Such policies played well with the GOP’s conservative base, but not necessarily with Latino voters. Ninety percent of Latino voters support the DREAM Act and 85 percent support a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, according to a Fox News Latino poll released in March.
Since edging out the GOP competition, Romney has distanced himself from such statements. The campaign’s strategy toward Latinos now is to focus on the economy, pointing out that the issue generally tops Latinos’ concerns in polls.
But Romney faces an uphill battle convincing Latino voters that Obama is to blame for the state of the economy, and that a program of cutting taxes and reducing the size of government would serve them better.
A poll last month by the Wall Street Journal, NBC News and Telemundo of 300 registered Latino voters found that respondents favored Obama’s approach to taxes (53 percent to 19 percent) and the economy (50 percent to 25 percent).
A survey by the Pew Hispanic Center in April also hinted that a philosophical gulf separates the average Latino voter from the Romney-Ryan ticket—as 75 percent of respondents favored a larger government that provides more services, versus just 41 percent for the general population. The figure for Hispanics is significantly lower for the third generation and beyond, at 58 percent.
If there’s a bright spot for Romney in all this, it’s that Latino voters dislike paying taxes as much as most other voters. Sixty-two percent of Latino respondents said they favored extending the tax cuts for everyone, including households earning over $250,000, according to a McClatchy-Marist national poll released in July.
However, the same poll found 65 percent of Latinos respondents thought Obama would do a better job handling the economy, versus 27 percent for Romney.