Two months after the primaries effectively ended, more than five months after Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush and a gaggle of other powerful conservatives called on their presidential candidates to cool it with the blistering immigration rhetoric, and six months after the Republicans rolled out their Hispanic outreach initiative, Mitt Romney's Latino-love numbers are still in the toilet.
It could be worse. At least they're not sinking any lower.
Of course, it's hard to fall off the floor.
The latest Latino Decisions poll shows President Obama holding a 43-point lead over Romney among likely Hispanic voters. Exactly two-thirds, 66 percent, favored Obama. Less than a fourth, 23 percent, said the same about Romney.
That's down 1 point each since Latino Decisions/Univision posed the question in November. Then, Obama stood at 67 percent among Hispanics, Romney at 24.
Interestingly, Romney does better with U.S.-born Hispanics. But that still only boosts him to 28 percent, compared to Obama's 63.
Among foreign-born Latinos, Obama's numbers rise to 69 percent; Romney's sag to 17.
It's evidence that what the Republicans are doing isn't working. All their efforts -- admittedly, not much compared to what the president has been doing -- aren't making a difference.
Neither is their pseudo-DREAM Act. The as yet unseen but much discussed Marco Rubio version of the act barely breaks even with the folks it affects most, Hispanics. That's compared to overwhelming support for the original DREAM Act, which would grant citizenship to the children of undocumented immigrants who complete two years of college or military service. The poll found 87 percent of Latinos favor that idea, and just 10 percent oppose it. Well over half of non- Hispanics, 62 percent, support the original version, as well.
That, too, is pretty much in line with a string of previous polls. Support for the original DREAM Act (which Romney vowed to veto) tends to hover near 90 percent among Hispanics, and near 60 percent or better among the general population.
Rubio's touted version, which he says would not offer a path to citizenship but would allow undocumented immigrant children to remain for two years while they attend college, has the support of 49 percent of Latinos and 47 percent of non- Hispanics, according to the poll.
There is no real Rubio proposal yet, but his announcement that he was going to put one forward seemed perfectly timed to help counter some of the alienation that occurred during those bitter primary debates.
It sure doesn't seem to be helping Romney much with Hispanics.
The question is, what will?
His campaign has taken a few tentative steps -- it translated one of its English-language ads to create "Dia uno."
Romney also made a rare appearance before a Latino group, the Latino Coalition of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. And he just announced his Hispanic Steering Committee last week -- filled with Republican politicians and current and former government officials.
The Republican National Committee has been more proactive. It announced a new head of Hispanic Outreach in January, and last month announced the hiring of outreach directors in six battleground states as part of an effort to mobilize Latinos on the ground.
It may be too early to gauge the effect. But it's pretty clear Romney and the Republicans need to step it up a notch or two if they want to nudge their Hispanic support upwards. Most strategists believe he'll need 40 percent of the Latino vote to win.
And with less than five months to go to Election Day, he's still a long way off.
Source: Terra/Carlos Harrison