Campaigns see Latino voters as deciders in 3 key states

Volunteers for President Obama have flooded into Latino-owned nail salons, buttonholing potential Obama voters as they sit captive in their chairs. In Colorado, supporters of Mitt Romney are recruiting Latino owners of small businesses to reach out to other business owners whom they view as particularly receptive to the Republican economic message.

Mr. Obama and his supporters have outspent Mr. Romney and his backers nearly 2-to-1 on advertising on Spanish-language television stations in three of the most closely contested states — Colorado, Florida and Nevada — including a new advertisement in which Mr. Obama makes a personal appeal for support, speaking entirely in Spanish. Mr. Romney’s advisers have relied on a surge of ads across the television spectrum, saying that most Hispanics speak English and consider the economy, not immigration, the top issue.

But if their strategies differ, both campaigns have determined that turning out Latinos in those three states is potentially critical. Mr. Obama is trying to roll up an outsize margin among Hispanics that could edge him to victory in those states, while Mr. Romney is seeking to hold down the president’s numbers.

Mr. Obama’s campaign manager, Jim Messina, said that while Latino voters were central in a growing number of states — including Iowa, North Carolina and Virginia — nowhere were they more critical than in Colorado, Nevada and Florida.

The voting population of Latinos has been on a steady rise in Colorado and Nevada. In Florida, it has shifted from Cuban, a heavily Republican bloc, to include more Puerto Ricans, a group that has proved to be more Democratic in the state. The change has provided Democrats with a new pool of potential supporters.

These last weeks are the culmination of a strategy years in the making for Mr. Obama. It now seeks to take advantage of a backlash among many Latino voters against tough immigration measures embraced by Mr. Romney during his party’s presidential primaries.

Mr. Obama’s campaign and its supporters have spent $8.9 million on Spanish-language television stations in Colorado, Florida and Nevada, compared with $4.6 million by Mr. Romney, according to Kantar Media, which tracks advertising spending.

Recent polling of Latino voters attests to the obstacles Mr. Romney faces. The Pew Hispanic Center survey found that 61 percent of respondents said that Democrats were more concerned than Republicans about Hispanic people; just 10 percent said Republicans were more concerned.

The poll showed Mr. Obama leading Mr. Romney among Hispanic voters nationwide 69 percent to 21 percent; in 2008, Mr. Obama took 67 percent of the Hispanic vote, to 31 percent for Senator John McCain.

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