Oct. 22, 2012 -- The presidential race has tightened significantly over the past few weeks, and President Obama appears to be keeping his edge partly because of his strong standing among Latino voters.
A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Telemundo (NBC) poll released Monday shows Obama leading his Republican challenger Mitt Romney 70-25 percent among Latino likely voters. And a weekly tracking poll of Latino registered voters conducted by political opinion research firm Latino Decisions (LD) and impreMedia shows a 70-21 percent lead for Obama.
To anyone who has been tracking these numbers over the course of the campaign, they're hardly a surprise. Obama's Latino-voter advantage has been one of the few constants of the election, despite repeated attempts by Romney and Republicans to eat into it.
Obama's approval on the economy stands at 63 percent among registered voters, according to the NBC poll, even though it's down slightly from 68 percent last month. His overall job approval rating stands at 66 percent among Latino registered voters in the NBC poll and is at 77 percent in the LD survey.
Even though Latinos largely bore the brunt of the economic recession, 58 percent blame "fighting in Congress" the most for the sluggish pace of the recovery, according to the LD poll.
Romney has struggled to overcome his negative image among Latino voters. Fifty-seven percent say they have a negative view of Romney, according to the NBC poll, with just 26 percent viewing him positively. In the LD poll, 49 percent say the GOP doesn't care too much about Latinos, and 21 percent even say the party is outwardly hostile to the community.
Less than half of Latino voters say that the debates were "very important" to how they decided to vote, according to LD. In fact, many Latino voters seem to have made up their minds before the presidential debates, which have helped Romney make the race close with other voters.
Obama's Latino lead appears even more important for him in light of his less-than-impressive standing among white voters. According to NBC's overall survey, only 38 percent of white voters support the president compared to 55 percent who back Romney.
But the other constant when it comes to the "Latino vote" is lagging voter enthusiasm. Translation: if enough Latinos aren't motivated to vote, then the advantage for Obama disappears.
The NBC poll found an uptick in voter enthusiasm; on a scale of 1 to 10, 68 percent of registered voters listed their enthusiasm as 9 or 10. That is up from 59 percent a month ago. But that is still behind the enthusiasm levels seen four years ago, when that number was at 76 percent among Latinos.
Seventy-six percent of all voters, regardless of race, in 2012 list themselves as a 9 or 10, per NBC.
NBC found that 13 percent of Latinos have already voted early or absentee, while an additional 10 percent are saying they will vote before Election Day. The number is 3 percent smaller among the wider universe of Latino registered voters polled by LD.
In the LD survey, 56 percent of registered voters said they are "very enthusiastic" about voting, with another 27 percent saying they are "somewhat enthusiastic." That's up from last month, but those numbers have only varied slightly over the course of the nine weeks in which Latino Decisions has tracked voters.
With the election as close as it is, whether those "27 percent" show up to vote could decide the outcome.
The NBC poll was conducted between Oct. 17-20 and has a margin of error of 6.8 percent among likely voters, 5.7 percent among registered voters. The Latino Decisions poll was conducted between Oct. 12-18 and has a margin of error of 5.6 percent among registered voters.