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Latino Vote Spotlight on Florida's Senate Race: Bill Nelson v. Connie Mack IV

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Yesterday, America’s Voice released an updated analysis of key races where Latino voters and immigration will play a key role. Here’s the information on the the key Senate race in Florida:

Candidates: Rep. Connie Mack IV (R) v. Sen. Bill Nelson (D), incumbent

Rating: Lean Democratic (Cook Political Report, 10/4/12)

Latino Eligible Voter Population: 17.7% (Teixeira/Frey)

Asian Voting Age Population: 1.9% (Center for American Progress)

Florida’s Latino community has long been a powerful force in state politics, constituting 17.7% of eligible voters. The Republican Senate nominee, Rep. Connie Mack IV, once showed some promise of becoming a moderate on immigration—like his father, Senator Connie Mack III.  In the spring of 2010, Mack IV actually spoke out against Arizona’s harsh SB 1070.  But he soon fell in line with the Republican Party positions on immigration, voting against the DREAM Act in December of 2010.  (Three of Mack’s Hispanic colleagues in the Florida congressional delegation, Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Diaz-Balart and Lincoln Diaz-Balart, co-sponsored and voted for DREAM.)  Senator Bill Nelson (D), on the other hand, has a strong record in support of immigrants.  He voted to end the GOP filibuster of the DREAM Act on December 18, 2010 and is a cosponsor of the legislation.

Besides the Senate race, Florida is, of course, a battleground in the Presidential race. Because of that, over the past couple days, we’ve seen more and more attention being paid to the polling of Latino voters in the Sunshine State. Univision’s Jordan Fabian reported on the polling of Hispanics in Florida:

The key to understanding which candidate has a better chance of winning could be the preferences of the state’s Hispanic voters, a group that has become notoriously difficult to poll.

Florida has the third largest share of eligible Hispanic voters in the nation, but the population is unlike the Latino community in any other states. Cuban-American and Puerto Rican voters make up the bulk of Florida’s Latino electorate, whereas in other battleground states like Nevada and Colorado, Mexican-Americans are the predominant group.

Fabian concludes:

In any case, we won’t know the outcome until Election Day. And as the old cliche goes, turnout will be key. But how the Florida Hispanic vote breaks down could tell us a lot about the winner, and why he won.

Yesterday, The Orlando Sentinel highlighted the polling of Florida’s Latino voters conducted in September by Latino Decisions:

United We Dream, a Hispanic activist group pressing for passage of the DREAM Act, is out with swing-state polling that says President Barack Obama has double-digit leads over challenger Mitt Romney among Hispanic voters in the five states polled.  In Florida, the lead is 30 points — 61 percent-to-31 percent. Among “certain” voters, the lead is 56-to-27.

The survey also shows two-term Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson with a comfortable 53-32 lead over his Republican challenger, U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV, with 15 percent saying they’re still undecided. But among “certain” voters, Nelson’s lead is just 38-27.

In Florida,  it does appear that Nelson’s consistent support for immigration reform is helping him in the race against Mack. And Nelson isn’t just winning Hispanics–he’s got a solid lead. According to Huffington Post’s poll tracker, Nelson is ahead of Mack by 49.5% – 41.9% margin.