As the Florida primary hurtles to a close tomorrow, President Obama's re-election campaign is claiming an early victory: the loyalty of a strong majority of Hispanics, including swing voters disgusted by the GOP candidates' rhetoric on immigration.
"Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich may very well have already sealed the political fate of their party with the Hispanic electorate - the fastest growing voting bloc in the country," Obama for America Hispanic pollster Sergio Bendixen and spokeswoman Gabriela Domenzain wrote in a memo to reporters Monday.
"Their extreme rhetoric on immigration during the televised debates has rejected our history as a nation of immigrants and alienated millions of Hispanic voters nationally," they said.
The memo calls Romney's vocal opposition to the DREAM Act, which he's described as a "handout," a "demagogic appeal to Tea Party voters." 85 percent of Hispanic voters support the measure, according to a new Univision/Latino Decisions poll.
It also cites Gingrich's 2007 comment on Spanish as "the language of living in a ghetto" - resurfaced by Romney in a 2012 campaign ad - as "offensive on face value." The former House speaker made the remark while promoting bilingual education.
Polls show that Hispanic voters - a reliably Democratic voting bloc - are turned off by harsh primary season rhetoric on immigration and remain strongly supportive of Obama in Florida and nationwide.
Obama leads by wide margins among Hispanic voters in hypothetical general election match-ups with Romney and Gingrich, according to a Univision/Latino Decisions poll released Jan. 25.
Hispanics would choose Obama over Gingrich, 70-22 percent, according the poll, while preferring Obama to Romney, 67-25 percent. In 2008, Obama won 67 percent of the Hispanic vote over John McCain, who won 31 percent.
And even if Romney or Gingrich draws strong support from conservative Florida Hispanics on Tuesday, Bendixen and Domenzain claim, the GOP nominee would still face a support deficit in the general election fight for the Sunshine State's 29 electoral votes.
Obama leads Romney (50-40 percent) and Gingrich (52-38 percent) among Florida Hispanics in general election match-ups in the Univision/Latino Decisions poll.
Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, a tea party favorite and possible GOP vice presidential pick, warned Friday that his party risks alienating Hispanics with their "harsh" rhetoric and outright opposition to a remedy for DREAM Act-eligible immigrant students.
"For those of us who come from the conservative movement, we must admit that there are those among us who have used rhetoric that is harsh and intolerable, inexcusable, and we must admit, myself included, that sometimes we've been too slow in condemning that language for what it is," Rubio told the right-leaning Hispanic Leadership Network Conference in Miami Friday, according to FOX News Latino.
"But at the same time, on the left there are those that are using this issue for pure politics creating unrealistic and unreasonable expectations among those in the Latino community across this country," he said.
Political strategists say the Republican nominee will need to win close to 40 percent of the Hispanic vote in November to beat Obama. And the party leadership remains confident it can be done.
"Obama has a Hispanic problem because Hispanics across the country have been disproportionately hurt by Obama's abysmal economic policies, and are ready for a change in direction in Washington," said Republican National Committee spokeswoman Alexandra Franceschi in an email.
"With the economy and jobs polling as the top issue for Latinos in this election, Obama will be hard pressed to convince Latinos to support the same failed policies."