Hoping to bolster more support for Mitt Romney, a group of pastors is appealing to Latino voters on Monday – the day of the final presidential debate -- to support the candidate who holds conservative values.
The group of Evangelical and Catholic faith leaders plans a press conference in Boca Raton, Fla., where the third and last 2012 presidential debate is scheduled to take place Monday night.
In an announcement about the event, organizers describe President Obama as someone who has backed measures and policies that run counter to conservative views on marriage and abortion.
The announcement read: “The pastors will take direct aim at President Obama's vocal support for the abortion industry that has targeted minorities, especially Latinos, Obama's endorsement of same-sex marriage in its national platform, and the administration's mandate forcing religious organizations to cover contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs.”
Alfonso Aguilar, executive director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, said that the group of clergy will not specifically push for Latinos to vote for Romney – because generally religious institutions have tax-exempt status, they are not supposed to campaign for particular candidates.
By portraying Obama as acting against the interests of conservatives in the Latino community, however, the implication is that Romney is the better candidate for president.
"In such a close election, Hispanic values voters may very well determine the outcome of the presidential election," said Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. "Hispanic believers will support the candidate that advances a culture of life and preserves religious liberty."
Aguilar, who supports Romney, says that it is a given that Obama will win the national Latino vote. Recent polls show the president enjoys the support of more than 70 percent of likely Latino voters, and Romney consistently comes in much lower, at about 30 percent.
The hard-line rhetoric by Romney and other Republicans on immigration, Aguilar and other political observers say, have alienated many Latinos, who tend to lean toward Democrats.
But in swing states such as Florida, Colorado and Nevada, Romney supporters are hoping the former Massachusetts governor might be able to win crucial Latino support by creating enough enthusiasm among voters whose choice will be driven by their views on same-sex marriage and abortion, Aguilar said.
“The winning ticket for Romney are Latinos of faith,” Aguilar said. “Catholics who are Orthodox and Evangelicals.”
A Pew Hispanic Center study on the role of religion among Latino voters with regard to the presidential race showed that Latinos without religious affiliation overwhelmingly support Obama, 69 percent to 21 percent. Hispanic Evangelicals also heavily support Obama, but by a slimmer margin -- 50 percent to 39 percent.
The study showed that a slight majority – or 52 percent of Latinos -- support same-sex marriage, but Evangelicals strongly oppose it, with 66 percent.
More than 70 percent of Catholics support Obama, 19 percent support Romney.
Romney's Latino evangelical protestant support is lower than with white, non-Hispanic evangelical Protestant registered voters, among whom a solid majority supports Romney (74 percent).
According to the same survey, half of Latinos (52 percent) now favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally, while one-third (34 percent) are opposed.
This is the first time the number has eclipsed 50 percent since the poll was first started. As recently as 2006, these figures were reversed (56 percent of Latinos opposed same-sex marriage, while 31 percent supported it).
Latino Evangelicals, however, remain strongly opposed to same-sex marriage (66 percent opposed vs. 25 percent in favor).
"To Hispanics, our support of the biblical definition of marriage is not a matter of politics but a matter of faith, " Rodriguez said in an op-ed published on Fox News Latino.
Numerous polls indicate that abortion, same-sex marriage and other hot-button social issues aren't top priorities for most Americans as they worry about jobs and health care. Yet abortion is a visceral subject for some voters — and the extent to which they turn out to vote, and perhaps sway wavering acquaintances, could make a difference in pivotal swing states.
Obama and Romney — reflecting their party platforms — are polarized in regard to abortion.
Obama believes decisions about abortion should be left to women and their doctors. Romney opposes abortion except in cases of rape, incest and threat to the mother's life, and says the Supreme Court should repeal the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that established a nationwide right to abortion.
This story contains material from The Associated Press.