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Can the GOP, and Mitt Romney, reach Latino voters before it's too late?

The GOP is lagging dangerously in its appeal to Latino voters, some party leaders fear, and Mitt Romney's poll numbers are sounding alarm bells. The issue is not just message, but policy.

DC Decoder's David Grant gives a preview on what to expect at the GOP convention Thursday night.
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When Hispanic megastar Marco Rubio ascends the stage at the Republican National Convention Thursday night to introduce Mitt Romney, an issue that poses an “existential” threat to the GOP, in the words of one party leader, will be in full view in prime time: Can the party reach Latino voters before the fast-growing bloc relegates Republicans to a perpetual minority for the next generation?

Distressed conversations about the party’s inability to win over Latino voters have been a constant, so far, at the convention. Everywhere, that is, except at the podium at the center of the Tampa Bay Times forum.

And the topic of immigration, an emotional issue that resonates deeply for Latinos, has been mentioned from the convention’s dais only twice: Once by South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who has enacted tough immigration measures in her state, and once by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Latino voters played an important role in fueling President Obama’s victory over Sen. John McCain in 2008, when Mr. Obama claimed

67 percent of the Latino vote to Senator McCain’s 31 percent. Since that time, the Latino share of the national vote has grown by 25 percent, to 8.7 percent of the popular vote.

The most recent Wall Street Journal/NBC/Telemundo poll, however, puts Romney at just 23 percent support among Latinos.

“Where [Romney’s] numbers are right now," said GOP strategist Ana Navarro, "he should be pressing the panic button."

The question for Romney is simple, said Ms. Navarro: “If he doesn’t beat McCain’s numbers, he doesn’t win.”

And that’s only this election cycle. Longer-term, to describe the party’s political challenges as “daunting” is understating the problem many-fold.

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