Obama camp launches Latino push by calling Romney ‘extreme’ on immigrationby George Bennett | April 18th, 2012
As President Obama‘s campaign launched a Spanish-language TV ad blitz in Florida and other swing states with large Hispanic populations, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro painted presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney as “extreme” on immigration.
Republicans, who launched their own Latino outreach program this week, countered by blaming Obama for a sour economy that has been tougher on Hispanics than other groups.
“Mitt Romney would be the most extreme nominee that the Republican Party has ever had on immigration,” said Castro, who joined Messina and Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., on a morning conference call to tout the Latinos for Obama campaign initiative.
Messina also used the word “extreme” to describe Romney’s immigration stance — echoing criticism from Romney Republican rival Newt Gingrich, who called Romney “anti-immigrant” in a January radio ad that was pulled after Sen. Marco Rubio objected.
Romney has called for beefed-up border security and tougher employer verification standards to curb illegal immigration. He also said Arizona’s controversial law cracking down on illegal immigrants was a “model.” And Romney has said he would veto the Dream Act, which would offer a path to citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants who were raised in the U.S. and complete two years of college or military service.
Romney adviser Albert Martinez accused Obama’s allies of trying to divert attention from the president’s “record of failure on the issues most important to Latinos. Hispanics have been hit especially hard as a result of three years of President Obama’s record of high unemployment, soaring debt, and skyrocketing gas prices. President Obama will do everything possible to make this election about anything other than his failed record.”
The Obama camp today began airing ads in Florida, Nevada and Colorado aimed at Latino voters, who supported Obama by a 2-to-1 margin in 2008. But Hispanic allegiance to the Democratic party slipped to 60 percent in the 2010 congressional elections.
Obama, who won Florida with 51 percent in 2008, got 57 percent of the state’s Latino vote over Republican John McCain after Republican George W. Bush was supported by 56 percent of Florida Hispanics four years earlier. Hispanics are about 13 percent of the electorate in Florida.
The Obama campaign touted the president’s support for immigration reform and said Hispanics are benefitting from the new federal health care law and programs such as Head Start and Pell Grants.
Republicans fired back that Latinos have been harder hit by the economic downturn.
The Hispanic unemployment rate was 10 percent in January 2009, when Obama took office. It reached 13.1 percent in November 2010 and stood at 10.3 percent last month — 2 percentage points higher than the overall national unemployment rate.
“Does President Obama think Hispanics suffer from amnesia? He may think we have forgotten about his broken promises to save or create 3.5 million jobs, pledge to cut the deficit by half by the end of his first term, or make immigration reform a top priority during his first 12 months as President. Not even the most eloquent rhetoric in the world, can hide the fact that this has been a failed Presidency with nothing but empty promises,” said U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami.
Republicans pointed to Obama’s 2008 campaign promise to make immigration reform a “top priority” during his first year in office. But Menendez blamed Republicans for blocking immigration reform by using Senate procedural rules to require 60 votes to pass legislation.
Menendez called Obama “someone who clearly stands on our side.”