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Mitt Romney Campaign Bashes Latino Voter Polls, But Obama's Lead Holds

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The campaign of Mitt Romney is criticizing polls of Latino voters that continue to show President Barack Obama leading. | AP

As the presidential campaign enters the final stretch, the claim that national polls aren’t fair and don’t matter is taking a turn as the latest Mitt Romney complaint.

The Romney/Ryan campaign has insisted in recent days that in swing states, Romney is closing President Barack Obama’s commanding lead among Latino voters and still has a solid shot at the White House.

“President Obama's failed record on the debt, on immigration reform, and on the economy has created pause among Hispanics,” said Alberto Martinez, a Romney campaign adviser and spokesman, in an email to The Huffington Post. Martinez has a long history of political battle in Florida, a battleground state in which one part of the Latino population has traditionally leaned Republican. “President Obama is not where he was with Hispanic voters in 2008, and despite relentless negative ads, Governor Romney still has a real opportunity,” Martinez said.

But the real truth about Romney’s standing with Latino voters doesn’t require a deep understanding of statistical science. Nor does it back the Romney camp's claims that on matters of policy, the GOP candidate is surging, said Matt Barreto, a University of Washington political scientist and co-founder of Latino Decisions, a national polling firm.

“What you are hearing is spin, a selective reading of the polls” said Barreto, The Romney campaign was "very fond of our national poll right after the Republican convention, when we showed that Romney had a significant but short-term jump in Latino voter support."

In a long-term tracking poll of Latino voters in 10 battleground states, Romney has laid claim to about a third of the Hispanic electorate, according to an impreMedia-Latino Decisions survey released Monday. Another 61 percent say they will back Obama. The poll represents the first composite examination of Latino voter sentiment in Florida, Nevada, Colorado, Arizona, Ohio, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Virginia, Iowa and Missouri -- the 10 states where polls say the election remains close.

The long-term battleground state data was adjusted to account for fluctuations over the course of the campaign. It includes a large number of Cuban Americans living in Florida -- a group that has historically supported Republican candidates. The Latino population in New Hampshire, Iowa and Missouri remains relatively small.

Polling that includes the views of Latino voters across the country paints a more dire picture for Romney. In the U.S., 21 percent of Latino voters say they will likely support Romney in November, compared with 24 percent one week ago. Another 73 percent of Latino voters say they are likely to back Obama, up from 69 percent last week. This data reflects recent campaign events -- the secretly recorded 47 percent video and the Univision candidate forum, Barreto said.

“The real problem they have is that the issues they are promoting and sticking to are not ones that are in agreement with the views of the average Latino voter,” said Barreto of Romney's campaign. “We see that they are doing quite well with a segment of Cubans in Florida who are heavily represented in the battleground state numbers. But stuff like failing to really answer the question about what he is going to do with the deferred action children just isn’t helping, or ... advocating for a system that would cap and privatize Social Security -- that isn't working. This is a population that doesn’t have a long history with investments or large personal savings. So those are ideas that just aren’t going to be appealing.”

On issues ranging from the economy, to Social Security and the fate of young undocumented immigrants covered by Obama’s deferred action directive widely supported by Latino voters, long-term polling data shows Romney faces an uphill climb, Barreto said. Romney's positions and his secretly recorded comments about the 47 percent of Americans who do not earn enough to pay federal income taxes have only deepened the sense that Romney can not relate to the concerns and struggles of ordinary Americans, including Latinos, Barreto said polling data shows.

The Romney campaign points to three polls released this week showing that in Colorado, Florida and Nevada, Romney has narrowed Obama’s lead among Latino voters. In Colorado and Nevada, Obama leads Romney among Latino voters by 15 percentage points or more. But, in Florida, a Public Policy Polling survey released Sep. 23 found that 47 percent of the state’s of Latino voters plan to back Romney, just short of the 49 percent who plan to support Obama.

Romney needs about 45 percent of the Latino vote in Florida to carry the state and maintain a real shot at the White House, Barreto said.

The Romney campaign has posted at least 13 full time field staffers in Florida to focus on Latino voters, a campaign aide told the Huffington Post last month. In New Mexico and some other states that now seem out of reach for the Republican candidate, Romney campaign offices have been closed.

Martinez declined to comment, saying the campaign does not confirm information on spending, resource allocation or strategy.

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