Nightly News   |  January 29, 2012

Candidates court Latino voters

In Florida, the Republican primary campaign has a distinctive Latin beat, as candidates reach out to a fast-growing segment of the electorate. NBC’s Ron Allen reports.

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>> the florida primary will be an early test of republican strength among the nation's fast-growing latino population. the gop candidates have been paying special attention to latino voters in florida , knowing their support both now and in november could hold one of the keys to the white house . nebraska's ron allen picks up our coverage.

>> reporter: in florida the campaign has a distinctive latin beat. [ speaking spanish ]

>> reporter: an aggressive push to court the state's fastest-growing electorate. latino voters. now more than 13% in florida . important in the gop primary and probably even more crucial in november. is this vote in the left hand election going to swing the tide one way or the other?

>> florida 's always a close state, and yes, it can.

>> reporter: patrick publishes a 90-year-old multi-lingual newspaper in tampa. it's a lot more complicated than it used to be?

>> absolutely, and florida especially we have a mix of cubans, puerto ricans , mexicans, venezuelans, colombians.

>> reporter: cuban conservative republicans used to dominate, galvanized by tough anti-castro policies. however, a big influx from places like puerto rico , american citizens who tend to support democrats.

>> who do you like?

>> i like obama.

>> do you think you'll always vote democrat?

>> yes, i think, till now.

>> reporter: president obama won the latino vote 2-1. then, latino voters helped sent republican marco rubio to the u.s. senate .

>> the biggest priority right now should be jobs.

>> reporter: latinos also have a generational divide. adrian mar 10 knees and his wife are republicans. their daughter prefers democrats. their son emmanuel --

>> republican, democrat, independent?

>> independent.

>> reporter: right down the middle. not listen to your grandparents, not listen to your mother.

>> nope.

>> reporter: what's the candidate to do?

>> they need to realize that they can't just come up with a quick sound bite and get hispanics in the state of florida .

>> reporter: for every vote often counts. down to the wire, a race for latino voters wielding increasing political clout. ron allen , nbc news, tampa.