About 11 million Latinos were registered to vote nationwide as of 2010, and both campaigns are eyeing Latino voters in swing states in 2012. In most other states, the Pew Hispanic Center says Latino voters' impact is bound to be limited.
On the Monday before the election, a poll by impreMedia and Latino Decisions showed President Obama was on deck to win a record share of the Latino vote. Among likely Latino voters, 73% said they would vote for Obama, 24% planned to vote for Romney, and 3% remained undecided.
The nation's 51.9 million Latinos make up almost 18% of the population. But the vast majority -- 68% -- live in non-battleground states: California, Texas and New York (which together account for 55% of Latinos) plus Arizona, Illinois, New Jersey and New Mexico.
Florida is the only swing state where Latinos make up a significant bloc of eligible voters, at 15.9%. Research from the Pew Hispanic Center shows more than two-thirds of potential Latino voters live in states where the presidential vote is clear with or without their input.
In Puerto Rico, a ballot referendum on the territory's status means citizens there are poised to vote on whether they'd like to be a U.S. state, among other options. Both Romney and Obama have said they support the referendum -- and both are battling for Puerto Rican voters in the key swing state of Florida.
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A Florida poll taken Oct. 10-11 showed Mitt Romney gaining among likely Hispanic voters. Florida's Hispanic population is largely Cuban-American and more aligned with the GOP in thinking Obama has poor economic and foreign policy records. In contrast, voters with Puerto Rican and Dominican backgrounds tend to back Obama on these issues.
"What's remarkable is the demographic split in Florida: Puerto Rican and Dominican and other Hispanic voters trust Obama. Cubans just don't."
In the FIU poll, Obama leads Romney narrowly, 51-44. Take out Cubans and Obama leads 64-33.
Pew's analysis of national census data from 2010 and voter registrations from 2012 in four states shows Latinos may vote at lower rates than in 2008. Broader registration data for 2012 won't be available until after the election. An impreMedia-Latino Decisions tracking poll released Oct. 22 found 71% of Latinos support Obama, compared with 67% the week before and 72% two weeks earlier.
Working to maintain his massive lead against Romney among Latinos, by Oct. 19, Obama's campaign spent twice as much as Romney's on ads on Spanish-language TV in three swing states -- Nevada, Colorado and Florida.
Nationwide, there are 152 million white Americans eligible to vote, 25 million African-Americans and 24 million Latinos.
About 9.8 million Latinos voted in 2008, roughly half of those who were eligible. Overall, about 65% of eligible voters participated in the last presidential election.
Compounding the low turnout among Latinos, Pew estimates just 45% are eligible to vote. By comparison, 79% of whites, 69% of blacks and 56% of Asian-Americans are citizens old enough to vote.
In the four states -- Alabama, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina -- where registration data already is broken out by race and ethnicity, more Latino voters are registered than in 2010. But Pew notes that the Latino populations in those four states have been growing faster than the national average.
"Mitt Romney is faced with one of his most implausible makeovers yet. Making his extreme policies seem appealing to Latino voters."
The Obama campaign fired back with a video mimicking the style and voice-over of a reality show, titled "Extreme Makeover: Campaign Edition." The YouTube ad aimed to cast doubt on Romney's commitment to issues that are important to many Latino voters, such as immigration reform.