Reporting Tim Kephart
MIAMI (CBSMiami) – President Barack Obama’s likely victory in Florida came thanks to a diverse coalition, but none were more powerful in that coalition than the Latino voters.
Polling of Latino voters released by Latino Decisions the night before the election said President Obama was likely to receive more than 70 percent of the Latino vote nationwide. Latino Decisions released a poll Tuesday, similar to an exit poll, pushed the number to 75 percent.
According to exit polls released by CNN Tuesday night, President Obama captured roughly 71 percent of the Latino vote compared to Mitt Romney’s 27 percent. Republican strategists had been saying for months that if Romney dropped below 30 percent, he couldn’t win the White House, which turned out to be right, as the president won a second term:
Romney’s Latino vote total was the lowest percentage won by a Republican since Bob Dole won just 21 percent in his 1996 loss to President Bill Clinton.
In Florida, the Latino vote made up 17 percent of the overall electorate and Obama captured 60 percent, far below his national numbers. This was partly due to the more conservative Cuban American voters in Florida.
Breaking it down further, Latino men voted for Obama by a 58-40 percent margin while Latino women broke for Obama by a 61-38 percent margin, according to CNN’s exit poll.
The power of the Latino vote, which totaled 10 percent of the electorate in 2012, and the dominating victory Obama had in the demographic may lead to major changes in the Republican Party.
Romney positioned himself to the far right on the issue of immigration during the lengthy Republican primary and struggled to ever shed that image and move back to the middle of the political road.
The Republican Party’s problem heading into the mid-term elections and the 2016 presidential election will be how to reconnect with the Latino voters. Democrats, who have seized on Republican inaction in reaching Latinos, won’t make it easy for the Republicans.
Democrats are expected to target immigration reform in the next year and that will put the Republican Party in the position of having to either ease some of their rhetoric on immigration and angering some of the white vote in the Republican Party, or run the risk of further alienating the Latino vote.