President Barack Obama would vastly outperform his Republican opponent among Latino voters -- a rapidly-growing voting bloc that could prove decisive in several swing states in 2012, according to a new Fox News Latino poll.
Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney did far better than his GOP rivals, drawinf the support of 35 percent of Latino voters compared to 12 percent for Newt Gingrich and 9 percent for Rick Santorum. But that edge vanished in a potential head-to-head matchup with Obama: in that scenario, Latinos chose Obama over Romney 70-14.
Obama faces a fair amount of anger and disillusionment from Latino voters and advocates who voted for him in 2008. He has failed to follow through on his promise of comprehensive immigration reform, opting to pursue legislative priorities like the health care overhaul and the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill, and has overseen a record number of deportations while retaining heavily criticized enforcement mechanisms favored by President George W. Bush.
Nevertheless, the poll found that the president still enjoys strong Latino support: 73 percent of Latino voters surveyed in the nationwide poll said they approved of Obama's peformance, and strong majorities backed his management of the economy and the health care bill.
The poll is the latest indication that Latino voters have been alienated by a raft of tough new immigration laws passed by Republican-controlled states and by the rhetoric of the Republican presidential candidates. Mitt Romney called Arizona's controversial new law, which a majority of Latino voters strongly oppose, a national model. The candidates oppose all or part of the DREAM Act, a bill that would offer citizenship to some immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children and that enjoys widespread support among Latinos.
The GOP's struggle to win over Latino voters could have powerful repercussions in the general election. America's Latino population has grown explosively in the past decade, something that has helped shape the demographics of voting populations in contested states like Colorado, New Mexico and North Carolina.