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Marco Rubio brings GOP hope with Hispanics but challenges remain

By Alex Leary

LAS CRUCES, N.M. -- Sorry, Washington superstar, Time magazine coverboy and hip-hop maven, she’s never heard of you.

“Marco Rubio?” said 28-year-old Memorie Annese, taking her daughters to a public library in this city tucked amid soaring mountains and the Rio Grande.

But the Mexican-American, school bus-driving union member who voted for President Barack Obama didn’t hesitate when asked if she would consider a Republican candidate with immigrant roots.

“Heck yeah — if he’s good,” Annese said. “There’s a connection.”

As the Florida senator explores a presidential run, her reaction undercuts Democratic assertions that non-Cuban Hispanics “don’t give a damn about Marco Rubio,” as Obama strategist David Plouffe said recently.

Interviews with voters in Hispanic-rich New Mexico, which Obama won twice, and Texas, a Republican bastion inching Democratic, suggest that Rubio could inspire goodwill and pride among minorities who shunned the GOP in the past two presidential elections.

“Having a president who is Hispanic, I can’t even explain it,” said Esmirna Corona, a college student in El Paso. “If people see Rubio is Hispanic, they’ll take time to check him out. With Mitt Romney, I was like no. Then I looked at his position on immigration and was like definitely not.”

More here.