McCain woos Hispanics and launches Spanish web site

Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain (R-AZ) visits supporters in a round table style venue to talk about health care at the Mizel Family Cultural Arts Center in Denver, Colorado May 2, 2008. REUTERS/Mark Leffingwell

PHOENIX (Reuters) - John McCain reached out to Hispanic voters on Monday as he sought to win over a constituency that has moved away from his Republican Party but could prove key in swing states in a close U.S. presidential election in November.

The Arizona senator’s campaign launched a Spanish language Web site to mark the Mexican Cinco de Mayo festival and McCain told reporters that “everything about our Hispanic voters is tailor-made to the Republican message.”

“I am confident that I will do very well,” he said. “I know their patriotism, I know the respect for the family, the advocacy for pro-life, I know the small business aspect of our Hispanic voters.”

Hispanic support for the Republican Party has ebbed in recent months, following a bruising battle over illegal immigration.

Republican lawmakers sank a comprehensive immigration bill last June that would have created a path to citizenship for many of the 12 million mostly Hispanic illegal immigrants living in the shadows in the United States.

McCain’s support for a broad immigration overhaul that would also have put some illegal workers on a path toward U.S. citizenship angered many conservatives in his party. He later said Congress should focus on border security first.

A report by the Pew Hispanic Center in December found that 57 percent of Hispanic registered voters called themselves Democrats, while just 23 percent considered themselves Republicans.

That was a 34-point gap in partisan affiliation, compared with 21 points in July 2006.

The Hispanic vote may prove crucial in November’s election against the Democratic candidate, either Sen. Barack Obama or Sen. Hillary Clinton, particularly in battleground states such as California, Florida and Colorado with large Latino populations.

Reporting by Tim Gaynor; Editing by John O’Callaghan