One of the back stories of the GOP primary is whether any of the candidates vying to represent the Republican Party and challenge President Obama in 2012 can mobilize support among the Latino electorate.
Given that Latinos are not likely to have a large impact on the outcome of the Republican primary, much of this discussion revolves around the question of whether the highly conservative stance of the Republican contenders on immigration policy will cost the GOP Latino votes in the general election? Given that the GOP candidates do not resonate well with Latino voters, it may take a game-changing event to see any of the contenders for the Republican nomination secure a meaningful percentage of the Latino vote in 2012.
One potential strategy for making in-roads with the Latino electorate is to place a Latino on the ticket as a Vice Presidential candidate. But would having a Latino on the ticket actually help secure more of the Latino vote?
Through analysis of the favorability measures in the November Univision News/Latino Decisions survey for the two potential Latino GOP prospects, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez and Florida Senator Marco Rubio, we can assess this important question. With the ability to compare the attitudes of Latino likely voters to the attitudes of non-Hispanic white likely voters, the November poll provides the ability to determine if Latino voters are more favorable toward Martinez and Rubio than non-Latino voters.
New Mexico’s Republican Governor Susana Martinez is not well known among the general voting population, as nearly half of the sample indicates that they have “never heard of” her, with another 30% indicating that they do not know enough about her yet to have an opinion. Furthermore, although slightly more Latinos view Governor Martinez favorably when compared to the full sample, a robust 38% have “never heard of” the first Latina to be elected governor in U.S. history. Latino voters in the Southwest are more familiar with Martinez, 34% of Latinos in this region have “never heard” of her, and 23% are either “very” or “somewhat” favorable of the Governor from New Mexico. These data suggest that Susana Martinez does not have the name recognition, at least at this point, to mobilize Latino voters if chosen as the GOP Vice Presidential candidate.
Attitudes toward Senator Marco Rubio are remarkably similar to those discussed for Martinez. As depicted in the figure below, 43% of the national electorate has “never heard of” Rubio, with another 26% yet to formulate an opinion about the Cuban American Senator.