Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-Fla.) potential to court Hispanic voters is fueling speculation that Mitt Romney will pick him as a running mate. And his effort to develop an alternative to the DREAM Act is drawing attention, as the Republican Party seeks to reverse its losing dynamic among Hispanic voters, who supported Barack Obama by more than 2 to 1 in 2008.
It’s difficult to determine how Hispanics nationally would react to a Rubio vice-presidential selection, but exit polls from his 2010 Senate election show he might have a more difficult time than in Florida, where Cuban Americans drove his strong showing among Hispanic voters overall.
Rubio, whose parents emigrated from Cuba, won an outright majority of Hispanic voters in a three-way contest against Democrat Kendrick Meek and Charlie Crist, who ran as an independent after losing the GOP primary to Rubio. Rubio won 71 percent of Hispanic voters with Cuban backgrounds, but only 39 percent of non-Cuban Hispanics.
Cuban Americans are less numerous outside Florida, and make up a smaller share of the Hispanic electorate. They account for about one in three Hispanic eligible voters in Florida, but just one in 20 Hispanics nationally, according to a Pew Research Center analysis.
Polling so far shows most Hispanics don’t know Rubio very well, but their initial reaction is positive and similar to the public overall. Fully 54 percent of Hispanic voters had no opinion on whether he’d be a good or bad choice for vice president, according to a Quinnipiac poll this month. Among those who did have an opinion, about twice as many gave favorable as unfavorable ratings, 30 to 16 percent. Registered voters overall tilted positively on Rubio by 24 to 14 percent.