If two new polls are to be believed, Republican Mitt Romney is making up some serious ground among Hispanic voters in Florida.
President Barack Obama still retains a big lead among Latino voters nationally, and a new Florida International University/Miami Herald/El Nuevo Herald (FIU) poll of likely Florida Latino voters shows Obama leading Romney 51-44 percent. But the margin is smaller than the one Obama had in 2008.
Also, a Mason-Dixon poll conducted for Tampa Bay Times/9 News/Miami Herald late last week showed Romney actually leading among Latinos 46-44 percent.
Those numbers would portend trouble for the Obama campaign. In 2008, he edged Republican Sen. John McCain by three percentage points to claim this key battleground state.
It is possible Obama wouldn't have won the state without his 57-42 percent margin among Florida Hispanic voters, a better-than-expected performance among an electorate that trends more conservative than Latinos do in other states.
He was able to accomplish that by making inroads among Cuban-American voters who have traditionally favored the Republican Party. Obama won around 35 percent of the Cuban-American vote in 2008, a virtually unprecedented performance that was made possible by younger Cuban voters who drifted away from the GOP.
Cubans make up around a third of eligible voters in Florida, but sometimes make up close to half of the Latino electorate in Florida, according to the Herald. Democrat-leaning Puerto Rican voters also make up close to a third, and all Puerto Rican voters favor Obama 61-36 percent, according to the FIU poll.
But the FIU survey shows that Romney has begun to reclaim the GOP's advantage among Cubans. If Cuban voters are taken out of the sample, Obama would take 64 percent of Florida Hispanic voters compared to 33 percent for Romney, the Herald reported. Overall the poll shows that enthusiasm for Romney is up among Cubans -- and Latino voters generally -- following his debate performance last week. And enthusiasm for Obama appears to have waned.
If that trend holds up, that could make it very difficult to win Florida, which carries 29 electoral votes. Obama and Romney are basically running neck and neck in the state and the state's diverse Latino electorate, which comprises almost 14 percent of all votes in the state, could sway the result.
Nearly half of all Latino voters in Florida said Obama has not "fulfilled his promises" to the Hispanic community, according to the FIU poll. And 54 percent said they are not better off than they were four years ago.