Florida Hispanic Vote: Obama’s Bet

Photograph by Phelan M. Ebenhack/MCT/Getty Images

A sign endorsing President Barack Obama hangs in a window of the Lechonera El Barrio Restaurant in a mostly hispanic district of Orlando, Florida.

A banner hung behind Republican Mitt Romney today at his campaign rally in Kissimmee, Florida, where he was introduced in both English and Spanish: “Necesitamos una recuperation genuina.”

“We need a genuine recovery.”

It’s the same message his English-language banners have borne — with Romney contending that the 7.8 percent unemployment reported for September and the 2 percent growth in gross domestic product reported this week for the third quarter are just not good enough.

But in Kissimmee, it’s the language that matters as much as the message.

As Romney headed to Florida today, and President Barack Obama headed to New Hampshire — with the president planning his own Orlando tour on Monday — the Obama campaign was pointing out the changing demographics of the Sunshine State:

“Florida’s electorate, just like the rest of the nation, has grown much more diverse since 2008,” Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters aboard Air Force One. “Of the over 300,000 Hispanics who have registered to vote since President Obama was elected four years ago, nine out of 10 signed up as Democrats or independents, and only 10 percent registered as Republicans. ”

Which brings us to Kissimmee.

In a state that is 22.9 percent Hispanic, Kissimmee’s Osceola County is 46.3 percent Hispanic.

Osceola, next door to Orlando, is in the heart of the swing-voting Interstate 4 corridor of Florida that determines the outcome of a lot of elections. Obama won the state by 2.8 percentage points in 2008. In Osceola, Obama won by 59,962 to 40,086.

And here’s that growth the Obama campaign is talking about:

In 2008, Democrats outnumbered Republicans by  59,652 to 40,486 in Osceola County.

Now, Democrats outnumber Republicans by 71,197 to 43,588 in Osceola.

Obama also carried Orlando’s Orange County in 2008 by nearly 90,000 votes — in addition to his 3-2 win in Osceola.

In a state famous for close elections, with the latest polls portraying Romney up by 2 percentage points over Obama, the Hispanic factor in Central Florida is critical. So there’s a good reason both campaigns will be talking a lot of Spanish, and a lot of economics, in the television media market of Central Florida, in the final week of the election contest.

Margaret Talev contributed to this report. 

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