Mitt Romney is closing the gap on President Barack Obama among likely Hispanic Florida voters, a majority of whom say theyre not better off than four years ago, according to a new Florida International University/Miami Herald/El Nuevo Herald poll.
Obama is ahead of Romney 51-44 percent among Hispanics, a relatively narrow lead that could spell trouble for a Democratic campaign thats counting on minority support as non-Hispanic white voters flock to the Republican ticket in droves.
In the rest of the country, however, its a different story for Obama when it comes to likely Hispanic voters.
The president wallops Romney 66-31 percent overall across the U.S., according to the polls national survey of 1,000 likely Hispanic voters. It was taken Oct. 10-11 along with the 720-voter poll in Florida.
The difference here: Cuban-American voters, who are overwhelmingly Republican and who appear to be increasingly excited about Romneys campaign.
Whats remarkable is the demographic split in Florida: Puerto Rican and Dominican and other Hispanic voters trust Obama. Cubans just dont, said Eduardo Gamarra, an FIU professor of Latin American studies who conducted the poll with his political research firm, the Newlink Group.
In the national and Florida surveys, Cuban voters consistently gave Obama low marks on handling the economy, immigration and foreign policy. Puerto Rican and Dominican voters said the opposite.
Momentum from Cuban voters could help other Republican candidates on the Florida ballot, particularly in South Florida.
Take out Cuban voters, and Obama wins Florida Hispanics 64 percent to Romneys 33 percent, according to the poll, which has a 3.6 percent error margin.
Overall, 54 percent of Florida Hispanics said they were not better off than four years ago, compared to 46 percent who said they were. Thats not just a reflection of Cuban sentiment; its an indication of Floridas unemployment rate, which is higher than the nations. And Hispanic unemployment is higher still. The number of Hispanic children living in poverty now exceeds the number of non-Hispanic white children, even though Hispanics are a minority.
Nevertheless, Obama edges Romney 51-48 percent over who would better at fixing the economy. He also pulls ahead of Romney 53-47 percent over handling foreign policy and 55-44 percent concerning immigration.
Asked if Obama had fulfilled his promises to the U.S. Hispanic community, 51 percent said no.
That could be a legacy of Obamas 2008 pledge to pass the pro-immigrant DREAM Act in his first term. It failed in the U.S. Senate thanks to a Republican filibuster.
The nations most-influential Spanish-language TV personality, Univisions Jorge Ramos, made Obamas failure a major issue last month during a nationally-televised forum at the University of Miami.
A promise is a promise, and with all due respect, Ramos said, you didnt keep that promise.
Obama seemed to agree later when asked what his biggest failure was: Well, Jorge as you remind me, my biggest failure has been comprehensive immigration reform.
The Obama lead is far bigger in the national poll of Hispanic voters and would be bigger in Florida were it not for Cuban voters like Lázaro Sierra, a 73-year-old Republican who came to the U.S. four decades ago.