Two new polls show Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney struggling to pick up support from Latino voters in two crucial battleground states.
In Nevada, President Barack Obama leads Romney 78-17 percent among Latino voters, according to the latest survey from Latino Decisions, a political opinion research firm. In a breakdown of those numbers, 69 percent said they will definitely support the president, while nine percent say they are leaning that way. In Romney's case, 15 percent said they would back him, with an additional two percent saying they lean that way.
The race is closer in Florida, where right-leaning Cuban-Americans make up a plurality of Latino voters as opposed to Nevada, where voters are primarily Mexican-Americans who lean left. Sixty-one percent of Latino voters back Obama (56 percent say they are certain), while 31 percent back Romney (27 percent say they are certain).
The Latino Decisions polls were conducted for America's Voice, a liberal pro-immigration reform group.
Both surveys showed the economy as the top issue, but immigration not trailing far behind. The results illustrated how the immigration issue is personal for many Latino voters. Sixty-nine percentin Nevada and 49 percent in Florida said they know someone who is undocumented.
Romney is trailing far behind President Obama among Latino voters nationwide, but the presidential elections will likely be decided at the state level.
That means the new poll results spell bad news for Romney. Obama defeated Sen. John McCain by 54 percentage points among Latino voters in 2008, which helped him win the state by five points overall.
With only six electoral votes up for grabs, Nevada might not seem like the most important victory in the broad picture. But, the candidates' presidential campaign schedules may indicate the opposite. Obama visited Nevada this week for the ninth time this year, and Romney made 16 campaign stops in the last two years, and six since becoming the Republican nominee.
Latinos may help swing the state in favor of Obama once again; 15 percent of all eligible voters in the state are Latino, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. At the same time, only about 10 percent of registered voters in the state are Hispanic.
"The Latino vote has grown considerably in Nevada, and there is no doubt that Latino voters will decide how Nevada breaks in the Presidential and U.S. Senate elections in 2012," said Latino Decisions co-founder Matt Barreto. "Candidates need to engage and mobilize the Latino vote if they want to win Nevada."
In 2008, Obama won Florida's Latino voters 57-42 percent. Should Obama win the state's Hispanic voters by the 30-point margin the Latino Decision poll suggests, it would be virtually impossible for Romney to pick up the state's 29 electoral votes. Latinos' share of the Florida electorate has increased from 10.7 percent in 2006 to 13.5 percent today.
The polls were based on 400 registered Latino voters in each state and the margin of error is 4.9 percent. The surveys were conducted between Sept. 22-28, before the first presidential debate.