By Marianela Toledo | Florida Watchdog
MIAMI— More than 10.5 million Hispanics will vote in the 2012 general election, adding more fuel to the rise of America’s fastest-growing demographic, which is becoming key to the presidential contest — and to the future of the country.
The latest presidential poll conducted by Reuters/Ipsos shows Barack Obama leads former Massachusetts Gov. and presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney, 49-42, far from a stark contrast of previous polls conducted over the past few months.
The poll surveyed 1,168 adults from Aug. 2-6 and had a margin of error of 3 percent.
But what about that golden Hispanic demographic that is proving decisive to victory in the Sunshine State and elsewhere?
According to Latino Decisions, a nonpartisan Latino-focused polling agency, more than 64 percent of Hispanics support Barack Obama, while only 23 percent of voters prefer Romney.
The survey was conducted with 2,000 registered Latino voters from June 12-21 in five states, with a margin of error of 2.2 percent.
Could the Republican vice presidential nomination of Sen. Marco Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants, change that? He’s often been mentioned as an ideal candidate alongside Romney, playing well to the conservative Cuban crowd in Florida and potentially to millions of Hispanics across the nation.
“In our research we found that if Marco Rubio was elected as a running mate for the Republican nomination, it wouldn’t have much of an impact on the Hispanic perspective,” said Silvia Montana, senior analyst at Latino Decisions.
The same poll by the group indicates only 25 percent of Hispanic voters in Florida would be more likely to vote for Romney if Rubio were No. 2 on the ballot.
“People rarely vote for the second name on the ballot. Usually voters elect the president, whatever the name is,” said Montana.
Despite the less-than-stellar performance in the selected survey, Montana notes Rubio still has great appeal among Hispanics and non-Hispanics because he remains a high-profile member of the limited government tea party group, which could likely propel him going forward into the next election cycle.
“It’s very difficult to predict now,” added Montana. “A lot can happen between now and 2016. Marco Rubio is a good prospect as a national candidate, whether or not he wins. But he’s young and he has time.”
Rubio gained fame after winning the Senate seat left by Republican Mel Martinez in 2009, especially after the hard-fought primary with then-Gov. Charlie Crist, who later competed as an independent and lost to Rubio in the general election.
But that fame has also brought renewed scrutiny.
In 2011, it was revealed that Rubio’s parents were not actually political exiles of Cuba— as he often claimed in public speeches — but actually freely immigrated to the United States in 1956, a full three years before the Cuban Revolution led by Fidel Castro.
Other stories published in local media revealed that Rubio had used his Republican Party credit card for personal expenses while serving as a member of the Florida House of Representatives.
“I shouldn’t have done it that way,” he later told the Washington Post in May of 2012. “It was lesson learned.”
Rubio’s office did not return calls to Florida Watchdog.
“Marco Rubio’s past isn’t greatly shocking,” said Montana. “Many politicians have very similar skeletons in their closet.”
“He handled it well and has now become a high-profile figure in the tea party.”
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