Global Politics

As Florida polls shift, Romney and Gingrich battle over immigration stance

A new wave of polls are out in the Florida Republica Party, with voting scheduled for Tuesday but advanced voting already under way, and an old face is back in the lead.

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According to RealClearPolitics.com's average of the latest polls, Mitt Romney now enjoys a 3.4 point lead on Newt Gingrich, according to a spread of six polls revealed in the last four days. That reverses a Gingrich lead of as much as 7 points in the wake of Gingrich's dramatic victory in South Carolina.

Neither candidate is slowing down, either in victory or defeat. Gingrich was holding a rally with tea party supporters while Romney was speaking at a printing business and Rick Santorum, who has seen a dramatic decline in his support in recent days was holding a prayer meeting. Just Ron Paul, whose support was the lowest in Florida, wasn't actively campaigning on Thursday.

But all four will be back in action Thursday night for another debate. And they'll all be trying to court the Spanish-speaking vote.

About 70 percent of the registered Republicans in Miami-Dade county, the largest in the state, are Hispanic. The majority of those are Cuban. And that's meant the Republican candidates are taking a tough line on Cuba, with both Gingrich and Romney saying they will put an end to Fidel Castro's regime.

Gingrich recently rolled out an ad calling Romney anti-immigrant, but that was met with accusations of being dishonest and was ultimately taken down. But immigration is a finicky issue in Florida, because the demographic make-up of the population is different.

"Florida's Hispanic population, Latino population, is different from the rest of the country's," said Marc Caputo, politics reporter for the Miami Herald. "Our largest population is Cuban-American."

Cubans, unlike other Latinos, have special status under U.S. immigration law. If they can make it to the United States, they're guaranteed a path to citizenship."

Puerto Ricans, already U.S. citizens, make up the next largest share of the Florida Latino population. So both Romney and Gingrich have to make sure that their tough-on-illegal-immigration policies don't get portrayed as tough-on-Hispanic-immigration policies.

"The immigration debate affects Florida's Hispanics, on the whole, differently," Caputo said.

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