Balancing the Republican ticket with a Hispanic running mate would do little to alter Mitt Romney's weak standing among Latinos, according to a new Public Policy Polling analysis.
Romney is lagging far behind President Obama among Hispanic voters, a gulf that could prove critical in the general election. The presumptive Republican nominee acknowledged as much earlier this week, telling supporters at a closed-door event that the Latino electorate's unfavorable perception of Republicans spells doom at the voting booth.
The need to shore up Latino support has helped fuel speculation that Romney might select a Hispanic running mate, particularly the charismatic young Cuban-American senator Marco Rubio. While Rubio has repeatedly denied that he desires the role, his recent push for an alternate version of the DREAM Act -- a stalled bill that would grant citizenship to some young undocumented immigrants -- matches Romney's call for a Republican DREAM Act.
But the poll challenges the assumption that Romney would get a boost from a Latino running mate. Pollsters asked Hispanic voters in three swing states with large Latino populations and Hispanic elected officials -- Rubio in Florida, Gov. Susan Martinez in New Mexico and Gov. Brian Sandoval in Nevada -- whether those officials getting the vice presidential nod would affect their vote.
In all three instances, voters' responses were virtually identical to when they were offered a matchup between just Obama and Romney. About two-thirds of respondents supported Obama over Romney in New Mexico and Colorado; in Florida, 52 percent favored Obama compared to 44 percent for Romney.
The poll's results do suggest that the economy may provide Romney with an opening. Hispanic voters in all three states listed jobs and the economy, not immigration, as the primary factors influencing their presidential preferences. Romney has made his economic acuity the centerpiece of his appeal to voters, and Latinos have endured higher rates of foreclosure and unemployment than average Americans.
Latinos are clamoring for change, and the Republican Party is here to offer them the change they're looking for, RNC chair Reince Priebus said Monday during a conference call to reporters, according to the Hill, adding that Latinos have been bearing the brunt of the Obama economy.