Latinos react to latest poll on tough Republican primary race

As Mitt Romney and the other Republican candidates fight for primary votes, a new poll finds many voters have an unfavorable view of the party. (Photo/Getty Images).

The “no-holds-barred” Republican primary race appears to be taking a toll on the image of the Republican party and its presidential hopefuls, according to a poll released today. Are Latino Republicans discouraged? 

"Not really," says Jerry Natividad, a member of the Mitt Romney National Hispanic Steering Committee. "Very frankly, this is the way it is, and it would have been the same for Democrats if they had a primary," he adds.

A new NBC News/WSJ poll released today, which included a small percentage of Latino voters, found 40 percent of Americans had a “less favorable impression” of the Republican Party during this primary contest. 

Nearly 70 percent of those interviewed, including more than half of Republicans, used negatives when asked to give one word to describe the GOP nominating process.  Among the words people used were “painful,” “disappointed,”  ”underwhelmed,” and “uninspiring.”  

This has to be put in perspective, according to Latino Republicans like Jennifer Korn, executive director of the center-right Hispanic Leadership Network. 

"People have temporary amnesia; every time the election cycle comes, they forget how rough and  tumble it is," says Korn, who worked in President George W. Bush’s administration as well as his re-election campaign.   

The poll did find the grueling primary race, with its aggressive negative advertising, has had a toll on candidates, especially former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. 

Romney has a 28 percent “favorability” rating and a 39 percent “unfavorability” rating.  

"I think Romney will emerge as the Republican victor," says political scientist Gabriel Sánchez, of the University of New Mexico, "but he will be the most vulnerable candidate in the last thirty years." Sánchez thinks the rise of super PACs, which has allowed private individuals to give large amounts of money used to fund many of the negative political "issue" ads, has allowed candidates like Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum to stay in the race longer. 

"Before, the political parties were more in control of the money," he says. "Now, as long as you have a wealthy individual backing you, you can be in the race longer."    

For Romney, says Sánchez, the prolonged negative campaign has made it harder for him to “secure the populist base.”   

Republicans like Jerry Natividad, who was a regional Chair of the Hispanic chamber of commerce, says “we have individuals within our Republican party, the activists, who have been raising the religious or immigration issue instead of focusing on job creation and the economy.”  For Latinos, this is the real priority, Natividad says.

The poll found President Obama’s standing has improved - 50 percent now approve of him, the highest since the death of Osama bin Laden.  

Political analyst Sánchez says this does not mean President Obama’s re-election is a sure thing.  ”It will be a competitive, interesting election.” 

In the meantime, Republicans say once their nominee is decided, “everyone will rally around him,” according to Hispanic Leadership Network’s Jennifer Korn.

Bettina Inclán, Hispanic Outreach Director for the Republican National Committee, says all in all, “competitive primaries are a healthy process for candidates, and allows the voters to really get to know the candidates.” She adds the eventual nominee will emerge “stronger and better prepared for the 2012 general election, and ready to take on President Obama.” 

SANDRA LILLEY, NBC LATINO STAFF

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