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The effect of Romney's reach to Hispanic voters

By Richard Piatt | Posted - May 22, 2012 at 10:38 p.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY— Mitt Romney is reaching out to Hispanics — a huge and important bloc of voters in the coming election. But are his efforts reaching their target?

In the last decade, the Utah Hispanic population has grown to 13 percent of the overall population, according to the 2010 census — a trend mirrored nation-wide. But Mitt Romney is expected to use the economy, not immigration, to woo those Latino business owners meeting in Washington.

Romney's campaign knows this is a potentially significant bloc of voters, especially in swing states like Florida, Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico. In the past week, the campaign has sent press releases in Spanish, announcing TV ads and statements on Cuban independence.

But Utahn Melodia Gutierrez is unimpressed and doesn't think many Utah Hispanics will be either.

"The way he speaks to his office, he comes across as a person with immense privilege," Gutierrez said. "And with that disconnect with the working class, and especially working-class Latinos, it's difficult for anyone to connect with him, much less the Latino population.

But unlike states like Texas and California, Hispanic voter turnout is very low in Utah. That's something the state chair of the Utah Republican Hispanic Assembly sees as an opportunity.

Chairman Marco Diaz argues Hispanics will see other issues ahead of immigration, such as Romney's plan to turn the economy around.

In fact, the Pew Research Center finds immigration concerns rank below jobs, education health care, taxes and the deficit among Hispanics surveyed last December.

The study also shows the Hispanic population almost evenly split among conservative, moderate and liberal political views; while the general population reflects mostly conservative or moderate views.

The bottom line: There is opportunity for both parties in the Hispanic population. In fact, a lot of people argue the election could hinge on those voters.

Richard Piatt

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