LAS VEGAS -- Republican presidential candidates gather in Las Vegas on Tuesday for their next primary debate at the Venetian Resort Hotel and Casino.
Nevada has one of the fastest growing Latino voter populations in the country, and the Hispanic vote will likely be pivotal in the 2012 election. Yet a new poll finds Latino voters don't currently have a strong favorable view of any of the Republican candidates.
The Latino Decisions poll asked 600 Hispanic registered voters in more than 20 states their impressions of the GOP candidates. When it came to current front-runner, businessman Herman Cain, 71 percent didn't know who he was, or didn't have an opinion.
Texas Governor Rick Perry was known by more Hispanic voters, but 39 percent had an unfavorable impression of him, and only 22 percent had a favorable impression.
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney garnered 28 percent favorable views – the highest of any candidate – and 26 percent unfavorable. The remaining voters did not know who he was or had no opinion.
"By and large Republican candidates have not done extensive outreach to the Hispanic electorate, and that is reflected in the data," said Matt Barreto, a political scientist at University of Washington, who worked on the Latino Decisions poll.
The poll also showed that like the general electorate, Latino voters are not very enthusiastic about the upcoming election.
Even though the president won two-thirds of the Latino vote four years ago, in this poll, only 49 percent of voters said they were certain they would vote for Obama in 2012. An additional 12 percent said they were leaning towards voting for the president.
"It's still very early, but at this point, we don't see that same buzz and energy,” Baretto said. “We are not picking it up in the polls as we did in 2008.”
Though Cain was largely unknown when the poll concluded in early October, he may be gaining notice among Latino voters. Cain made a comment this past weekend about building an electrified border fence that angered Latino leaders.
Cain later said the comment was a joke.
Tuesday's debate is sponsored by CNN. In December, the Republican candidates are invited to return to Las Vegas for a second debate that will be hosted by the Spanish language television network, Telemundo. It will be the first time Telemundo hosts a primary debate.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that President Obama won three-fourths of the Latino vote in 2008. He won two-thirds of the Latino vote. We regret the error.