Mitt Romney's choice of Paul Ryan as his vice presidential running mate could sink Romney's prospects with Latino voters.
Ryan, a U.S. representative from Wisconsin, has voted against legislation that was vigorously supported by Latinos, notably the "Dream Act," which would allow young illegal immigrants to avoid deportation and get work permits. Ryan also wants to change entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid that are popular among Latinos.
This record, coupled with presumptive GOP presidential nominee Romney's harsh rhetoric against illegal immigration during the Republican primaries, will make the GOP ticket a hard sell among Hispanics, strategists of both major parties say.
Some GOP strategists argue that it would have been different if Romney had chosen as his running mate Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, a Cuban-American who would more appeal to Latinos.
Meanwhile, President Obama is reaping goodwill from Latinos for backing the Dream Act. The application process started Tuesday, and hundreds of thousands of people could make use of it. The law allows the children of illegal immigrants to seek legal status if they were brought to the United States as children and have no criminal records. Another factor that could facilitate legal status is military service.
As the application process advances, it is likely to be heavily covered by the news media, which could boost Obama's candidacy just as the campaign is shifting into high gear.
An NBC/Wall Street Journal/Telemundo poll in late July had Obama with 67 percent of the Latino vote to Romney's 23 percent. A Politico/George Washington University Battleground Poll this week gave Obama a lead of 62 to 26 percent.
"There is no issue that is more alarming for the future national viability of the Republican Party than this one," said Steve Schmidt, who was the campaign manager for GOP candidate John McCain in 2008. Schmidt told Politico: "The precipitous drop in the support levels for Republicans is alarming because it indicates that more and more Hispanics are simply disqualifying from consideration anyone with an 'R' next to their name."
Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog, "Ken Walsh's Washington," and is the author of "The Presidency" column in the U.S. News Weekly. He can be reached at email@example.com and on Facebook and Twitter.