Any poll where you’re down nearly 40 points is a bad poll, but this is as good for him as a bad poll can be.
Rubio, meanwhile, carries a narrow 31-29 positive favorability rating. Some four in 10 probable Hispanic voters, though, say they don’t know the Florida lawmaker, who has helped push for comprehensive immigration reform in the Senate…
The top performing Republican among Hispanic voters was New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who carries a 38-12 percent favorability rating. Half of voters though say they have no opinion of Christie.
Despite being more popular, Christie trails Rubio when Hispanic voters were asked who they would vote for in a Republican primary, pulling just 14 percent to Rubio’s 29 percent. Bush (13 percent), Ryan (11 percent), and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) at 9 percent round out the top 5.
The Democratic leads only increase in hypothetical head-to-head match-ups with possible Republican candidates Ryan or Bush.
How is this “good” news for Rubio when he doesn’t even have the highest favorable rating from Latinos among Republicans in the 2016 field? Because, while it’s true that nominating Rubio won’t bring the GOP anywhere close to winning 51 percent of Latinos in 2016, that’s not the party’s goal. The goal is to win big among whites and narrow the Democrats’ advantage among blacks and Latinos as much as possible. Lose Latinos 80/20 and we’re in trouble; lose them 58/42 and we’re likely in business. The reason Rubio’s rolled the dice on immigration reform is because it not only gives him added appeal to Latinos who might be intrigued by his heritage and the historic nature of his candidacy, but it gives him a crucial “electability” argument to make to rank-and-file Republicans. He can
win Latinos lose fewer Latinos! And there are a lot of Republicans out there, as John McCain and Mitt Romney could tell you, for whom perceived electability is the core concern. In fact, although Hillary would be the toughest Democrat to beat, the fact that she’s so fantastically popular with Latinos — a 73/17 favorable rating — arguably strengthens the case for Rubio by suggesting that only a groundbreaking Latino nominee will have a fighting chance of keeping her from winning that demographic overwhelmingly.
Another key tidbit from the same poll conducted by Latino Decisions:
Granted, it’s one thing for pro-immigration-reform voters to say they’ll vote for someone who champions their pet issue and another thing for them to actually do it. And granted, if you believe the rhetoric coming out of the House (which I really don’t), there’s virtually no chance of a bill passing both chambers that has a special path to citizenship in it for illegals. Again, though: The name of the game here is electability, and that number helps Rubio make his case to GOP undecideds that he’s Mr. Electability in the field. Don’t forget too that when the first primary polls between Hillary and Obama were taken in 2007, Hillary won the black vote easily; that quickly changed as O’s candidacy gained credibility, the theory being that many black voters were unfamiliar with Obama initially and didn’t think a black candidate had a real chance to win. Maybe you’ll see some lesser variation of that with Latinos — early support for the Democratic nominee and then, as they get to know Rubio, some switching as the campaign wears on. There won’t be any sort of sea change of the sort you saw among blacks between Hillary and O for the simple reason that that was an intraparty dispute, with the candidates pushing similar philosophies, and this would be an interparty one. But you may see some. Expect to hear Team Rubio mention it early and often if/when he gears up to run.
One gray lining in the silver cloud for Rubio fans, though: If Democrats see their support among Latinos starting to erode, they’re going to ratchet up the election-year demagoguery from an eight or nine to 11. Some of that will involve escalating attacks on Rubio and the GOP as anti-Latino (“Don’t forget, Rubio demanded more border security before rubber-stamping amnesty!”) but mostly, I think, it’ll come in the form of promises to Latino voters to relax some of the harsher rules in the new immigration law, if one passes, or to pass something lax themselves if nothing has yet. This is the flip side to the argument that we should nominate Rubio to neutralize Hillary’s Latino advantage. If Rubio really does end up being stronger with Latinos than anyone expects, the pressure on Democrats to pander on immigration even more than they usually do will be tremendous. We might well end up with an immigration law even weaker than Gang of Eight bill. Going to be a tough “electability” calculus for Republicans come 2016.