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Could Gingrich Make Inroads with Hispanic Voters?

4:29 PM, Dec 6, 2011 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
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The Washington Post writes that “some Democratic strategists worry that the combative [Newt] Gingrich presents some challenges for the Obama campaign that would not exist if Romney were the GOP candidate.” Chief among these are the enthusiasm that Gingrich could potentially generate among conservative voters, the general perception of him as a regular guy, and his potential to win over Hispanic voters. 

Newt Gingrich

The Post writes,

“Where Romney, the former business executive and Massachusetts governor, poses a threat in his ability to win independents and conservative Democrats attracted to his image as an economic Mr. Fix-It, Gingrich could pursue a strategy that combines energizing the conservative base and chipping away Democratic support among Hispanics….

“Some Democrats believe that Gingrich, a hero of the conservative movement, would excite the party base more than a former liberal-state governor with a history of centrist views. And voters yearning for authenticity may be more open to the voluble and rumpled former House speaker, who frequently discusses his past mistakes and his recent conversion to Catholicism, than to a former equity-fund executive with perfect salt-and-pepper hair.

“‘He does not carry Wall Street baggage,’ said one Democratic strategist working on the Obama reelection effort, speaking on the condition of anonymity to freely discuss his thinking. ‘He’s really smart. He’s definitely authentic.’

“Perhaps most significantly, Gingrich has an extensive Hispanic outreach organization, which he has been building for years. Unlike anything in the Romney playbook, that network could give Gingrich a head start slicing into Obama’s base in key states in the Mountain West, where Hispanics are a fast-growing swing voting bloc.”

Recent Rasmussen polling provides some support for this notion. Rasmussen shows that Gingrich and Obama are essentially in a dead-heat among non-white, non-black voters — 40 percent for Obama, to 39 percent for Gingrich. Romney, meanwhile, trails Obama by 12 points among non-white, non-black voters — 46 to 34 percent. 

Either candidate could presumably make the GOP ticket even more appealing to Hispanic voters — and to Florida voters, generally — by selecting Florida Senator Marco Rubio as the vice-presidential nominee.  (Of course, neither presidential candidate likely wants to give Republican voters the impression that he’s even remotely taking their votes for granted, so don’t expect either one to start talking much about potential vice presidential picks until anyone knows who the actual nominee will be.) 

The Post adds a few more interesting insights:

“Part of Gingrich’s challenge is showing that he has grown since his more bombastic days in Congress, when he engineered the 1994 Republican takeover of the House but left office as a deeply unpopular figure.

“There are signs that Gingrich, 68, may be having some success with his image makeover.

“Democratic pollster Peter Hart was struck last week by the reactions of GOP primary voters who took part in a focus group Hart conducted for the Annenberg Public Policy Center. Asked what relative Gingrich reminded them of, several said a favorite uncle or a grandfather. Romney was a ‘missing father’ or a second cousin, Hart said, indicating the voters felt more affinity for Gingrich….

“GOP strategists acknowledge that Gingrich could well self-destruct before winning the nomination. But if he survives, they say, he may be more formidable than some predict.”

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