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Friday, June 22, 2012

"Votar Por Obama!" Obama Woos Latino Voters At 2012 NAELO Conference

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Obama Widens Latino Voting Gap

The enormity of Mitt Romney’s Latino challenge was made clear here Friday in the 45 seconds an audience of Hispanic elected officials stood and applauded before President Barack Obama spoke.

The president depicted himself as a champion of immigration reform, blasted Republicans for blocking the DREAM Act and recounted his decision to stop deportations of many young undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. by their parents.

Obama touted his health care overhaul and his actions to boost the economy. He brought out the bilingual phrases “Yes, we can” and “Si, se puede” from the 2008 mothballs.

The crowd loved it.

The day before, Romney told Hispanics that they have suffered under Obama’s economic stewardship. He tiptoed around the president’s deportation shift, saying it doesn’t matter whether he’d reverse it because his focus as president would be on a long-term solution.

The mostly Democratic crowd, which didn’t even fill the Disney World ballroom, was unmoved.

The difference was clear. Obama brought a prize for Hispanics, an immigration action that he admitted was long in coming, while Romney did not.

Obama brought reminders that the DREAM Act was once a bi-partisan exercise blocked in 2010 by Senate Republicans, while Romney avoided mentioning that he had pledged to veto it during the primary campaign.

Obama, speaking to a full house during the annual conference of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, did not let the audience forget.

“He has promised to veto the DREAM Act, and we should take him at his word,” Obama said, referring to Romney not by name but as “your speaker yesterday.” As the cheering faded, Obama added a tart, “I’m just sayin’.”

The president hit the immigration theme hard, devoting the heart of his 28-minute speech to his support for, and the Republican blocking of, changes to immigration policy.

“We should have passed the DREAM Act a long time ago.

It was written by members of both parties,” Obama said of the bill, which creates a path to citizenship for some young illegal immigrants who served in the military or went to college. “The bill hadn’t changed. The need hadn’t changed. The only thing that had changed was politics.

And I refused to keep looking young people in the eye, deserving young people in the eye and tell them, ‘Tough luck, the politics is too hard.’”

Obama’s speech here comes at a perilous time for both his reelection campaign and the political energy of Hispanic voters.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule next week on the legality of Arizona’s tough immigration law, which Obama’s Justice Department challenged.

The high court also is expected to rule as early as Monday on Obama’s landmark health care law, more popular among Hispanics than the nation at large.

Romney’s campaign responded with statements from supportive Hispanic Republicans in Congress criticizing Obama on the economy.

Romney campaign spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg accused Obama of enacting “job-killing policies that have led to 11% Hispanic unemployment and millions of Hispanics living in poverty. On Day One, Mitt Romney will take our country in a new direction and get our economy back on the right track.”

Republicans here said Obama broke a promise to introduce an immigration overhaul bill during his first term. But they worried the president’s recent actions and voters’ short memories will lead to Obama getting credit for helping immigrants — and little blame for taking so long.

And they said Republicans have missed an opportunity with Latino voters.

“The bottom line is the Republican Party has made a mistake of not articulating a legislative agenda as it pertains to immigration,” said Juan Zapata, the chairman of the NALEO Education Foundation and a former Florida Republican state representative from Miami.

He praised the efforts of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, whose alternate DREAM Act proposal contains much of what the Obama administration announced last week. “Sen. Rubio tried to do something. I think it would have been great if it started a year ago, and I think it would have done the party a lot more good,” Zapata said.

Zapata, who supports Romney, said he hopes Hispanics in Florida and elsewhere remember Obama’s broken pledges. But he warned that Obama’s message about Romney’s opposition to the DREAM Act will resonate with Latinos.

“I’ll tip my hat to the president, you know, that was a good statement, a good comeback,” he said. “But the reality is also the president made a promise in front of this crowd, two promises, that he’d come back the year after [his election] as president and that he’d file immigration in his first year, and he hasn’t kept either of those promises.”

Obama spoke after a morning session that featured a stirring speech by Rubio, a tea party hero whom Romney said Tuesday is being vetted as a possible running mate. Rubio declared a need for a compromise on immigration policy for the nation’s estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants.

“As long as this issue of immigration is a political ping pong that each side uses to win election and influence votes, it won’t get resolved,” he said, drawing polite applause that lacked the enthusiasm shown for Obama.

While Rubio’s words, primarily on immigration, kept the crowd rapt, the audience wasn’t snapping photographs and recording the event as they did for Obama.

Of the ultimate answer, Rubio said: “Here’s the truth, if we’re honest with ourselves, we don’t know yet.”

The administration shift in deportation policy is boosting Obama’s already large lead among Latinos over Romney.

A survey of swing-state Latinos released Friday showed Obama ahead by 36 percentage points among Hispanic voters in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Nevada and Virginia, with his most substantial leads in Arizona, Colorado and Nevada.

The move’s popularity in Florida, where a heavy contingent of Latinos are either Cuban, who are legal residents upon reaching U.S. shores, or Puerto Rican, who are citizens from birth, is less than in other states.

“The people that don’t like him aren’t going to look at him differently after this anyway,” said state Rep. Luis Garcia, one of three Hispanic Democrats in the state Legislature. “The people he’s looking out for are the ones who are borderline.”

In Florida, Obama leads Romney by 16 percentage points among Hispanics — a sizeable amount, but not the 48-point margin he has in Colorado, where state Rep. Dan Pabon said the president’s announcement has already spurred more enthusiasm.

“More people are willing to knock on doors, make phone calls, I mean, it’s actually had a marked change in not just, ‘I support the president,’ but ‘All right, I’ll pick up the phone now, I’ll knock on a door now, I will donate now,” said Pabon, who estimated 70 percent of the conference attendees are Democrats. “It’s really unleashed another level of support for the president.”
And that gap played out here.

As Romney took the stage, many in the audience didn’t stand or applaud, and many of his usual applause lines received no reaction from the crowd. At times he paused awkwardly, appearing to expect a reaction but not getting one.

When the former Massachusetts governor – who like Obama is used to delivering remarks to friendly audiences — offered his oft-used and generally most well-received line about repealing “ObamaCare,” only a small fraction of the audience applauded and one man booed.

Obama, upon taking the stage, received the standing ovation. He said, in Spanish, that it is good to be among friends.

President Obama Shreds Romney’s Chances With Hispanic Voters In Speech To Latino Group

On Friday afternoon, President Obama followed former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney‘s hotly-anticipated speech to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) with his own speech to the group, which presented a golden opportunity to keep Romney on the ropes with Hispanic voters regarding the President’s recent immigration policy change. It was also an opportunity to challenge Romney’s false claim that it was the President who stood in the way of comprehensive immigration reform, rather than Romney’s Republicans.

It was a week ago today that President Obama shot immigration up to the top of the presidential campaign with his announcement of a major immigration enforcement policy change, one which allows young undocumented immigrants to apply for deportation relief, if they meet the requirements of the DREAM Act. Since then, Mitt Romney has doggedly refused to say whether he will reverse that policy change if he’s elected.

In his speech today, President Obama spent a great deal of time laying out his economic plans for the country, and applying it to the Latino community. Notably, the President emphasized not only the “choice” election he’s been promoting all along (as opposed to a referendum on the economy), but also his “vision” for America’s economic future, a term that reflects recent polling advantages.

But the real meat of the speech was his direct challenge to rival Mitt Romney, whom he didn’t reference by name, but rather referred to as “your speaker from yesterday” or “the man at the top of their ticket.”

The President rebutted Romney’s assertions that he hadn’t done anything on immigration. “Just six years ago,” the President said, “an unlikely trio, John Mccain, Ted Kennedy, and President Bush, came together to consider comprehensive immigration reform. I, along with a lot of Democrats, were proud to join 23 Senate Republicans in voting for it. Today, those same Republicans have been driven away from the table by a small faction of their own party.”

That line drew applause from the crowd, which is not a good sign for the effectiveness of Romney’s Thursday speech in bridging the huge polling gap he has with Hispanic voters.

The President followed up by talking about his recent policy change. ”In the face of a Congress that refuses to do anything on immigration, I’ve said that i’ll take action wherever I can. My administration has been doing what we can without the help of Congress for more than three years now. Last week we took another step. On Friday, we announced that we’re lifting the shadow of deportation from deserving young people who are brought to this country as children.”

He also responded directly to the absurd criticism that Republicans are making, that his policy change was somehow unnecessary, had he but asked them to pass the DREAM Act. “We should have passed the DREAM Act a long time ago,” President Obama said. “It was written by members of both parties. When it came up for a vote, a year and a half ago, Republicans in congress blocked it. The bill hadn’t changed. The need hadn’t changed. The only thing that changed was the politics.”

“For those who say we should do this in a bipartisan fashion,” he later added, “Absolutely. My door has been open for three and a half years. They know where to find me. I’ve said time and again, send me the DREAM Act. I will sign it right away.”

Most devastatingly, though, the President exposed Mitt Romney’s dance on the DREAM Act as the empty spectacle it is. “Your speaker from yesterday has a different view,” the President said. “In his speech, he said that when he makes a promise to you he’ll keep it. Well, he has promised to veto the DREAM Act, and we should take him at his word.”

Judging from the crowd’s reaction, the President’s speech nullified whatever inroads Romney made with Hispanic voters Thursday, if he, indeed, made any.

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Sources: Mediaite, MSNBC, Politico, Google Maps

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