(CBS News) Last week, in an interview with The Hill newspaper, the Romney campaign set a goal of 38 percent Latino support for the November election.
According to a recent poll by NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Telemundo, however, the campaign has a ways to go before hitting that mark: The survey, conducted from August 16-20, shows Obama leading Romney 67 percent to 23 percent among Hispanics.
"In most cases for Republicans to perform very well among Hispanic voters past the 35, 38, or even 40 percent mark, they've been working with Hispanic communities for the length of career in their states," said Leslie Sanchez, a Republican strategist who specializes in trends affecting women and Hispanics. "Many Latino voters, especially open-minded independents, don't know Governor Romney [yet]."
This week, at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, the Romney campaign will try to change that: Even as the former Massachusetts governor officially accepts the nomination, the party will be ramping up its messaging and showcasing some of its most prominent Latino up-and-comers.
"There's a record number of Hispanic speakers at the convention," said Alexandra Franceschi, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee (RNC). Pointing to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio's Thursday night timeslot introducing Romney, she added, "You see a lot of rising Hispanic stars within the Republican Party. You can see that the Republican message resonating with the community."
Franceschi said the Romney campaign would be releasing Spanish-language ads targeted specifically to Latino demographics, and noted that Romney had agreed to sit down with Univision host Jorge Ramos at a "Meet the Candidate" forum for the network. She also pointed out that "Juntos con Romney," the GOP's Latino outreach arm, has committees in 15 states and a national steering committee.
Even while the GOP plans to use the week's festivities to reinforce its commitment to the Latino community, many people believe the campaign's real push will come after the convention, when the Romney campaign is able to access fundraising money earmarked for the general election, and can flood the airwaves with increased advertising.
"When they get through with the convention, I think you'll see a real effort -- but it's not going to be easy and I don't think there's anybody that's kidding themselves about that," said Susan McManus, a professor at University of South Florida. "My guess is there's going to be a really powerful outreach on the part of Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush going forward. They're two very popular multilingual people here in our state, and I think they're going to be sent out on the road. The more multilingual interactions they can have with Hispanic voters, the better."