POSTED: Friday, October 19, 2012 - 12:15pm
UPDATED: Friday, October 19, 2012 - 12:19pm
NBC NATIONAL NEWS — President Barack Obama's campaign could be in trouble in Florida.
His lead over Mitt Romney among likely Hispanic voters is evaporating according to The Miami Herald.
President Obama is ahead of his Republican challenger by just 7 points among Hispanics - 51 percent to 44 percent - a new Florida International University/Miami Herald/El Nuevo Herald poll says.
The Democratic incumbent's lead among Hispanics is much larger nationwide, at 66 percent to 31 percent, the poll said.
A top reason for the difference is Romney's strong support among Cuban-Americans in Florida.
Young Cuban-Americans are as conservative or more conservative than their parents, and Florida Senator Marco Rubio has a lot to do with that, said Eduardo Gamarra, an Florida International University professor of Latin American studies.
"I think Marco Rubio, Senator Rubio, is kind of emblematic of that young generation of conservative Cubans," Gamarra said.
He conducted the state and national surveys on Wednesday and Thursday with his political research firm, the Newlink Group.
Traditionally Cuban Americans in South Florida have lined up behind the Republican Party, in part because of its hard line and very vocal opposition to Fidel Castro.
Take away Cuban voters, and Obama would be beating Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, by 31 points in the Sunshine State, at 64 percent to 33 percent, according to the Herald.
Gamarra described what he calls a second Latino voting bloc in the state.
"An other Latino Florida, meaning Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans and so on, who are very, very similar to the rest of the Latinos in the United States," he said.
Cuban voters disapprove of Obama's handling of the economy, immigration and foreign policy, while Dominican and Puerto Rican voters give him a thumbs-up in those areas, the paper said.
Obama continues to hold a small lead over Romney on those three issues among Hispanics in Florida.
But 54 percent of Florida Hispanic voters said they were not better off than four years ago, while 46 percent said they were better off, according to the Herald.
"In the rest of the country Latinos say the country is going in a good direction," Gamarra said. "Latinos in Florida say the country is not headed in the right direction."
A Herald/Tampa Bay Times poll from last week showed Romney with a 51 percent to 44 percent lead over Obama in Florida, while the latest NBC News/Marist/Wall Street Journal Poll has the two candidates in a virtual tie here.