Reporting Tim Kephart
Legislative Session Coverage
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (CBSMiami) – President Barack Obama continued to try to lock up the Hispanic vote Friday when he spoke before the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials at Disney World.
The president told the group the U.S. needs a comprehensive immigration solution and that as long as he is president, he “will not give up the fight” to reform immigration laws.
Through a series of moves, including last week’s policy change to stop deporting some illegal immigrants, President Obama is slowly galvanizing the support of Hispanic communities behind his re-election campaign.
The immigration initiative drew fire from Republicans over the policy and because they perceived the move as being an end-run around Congress, which has been stuck in gridlock for most of the last two years.
As Obama was speaking, a new poll from Latino Decisions gave the President more good news from the Hispanic community. Overall, the Latino Decisions poll found Obama lead Romney 63-27 among Latino Voters in the states of Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Nevada, and Virginia.
Romney’s support was highest in Florida where he polled at 37 percent. Obama’s support was the highest in Arizona, where 74 percent of Latino voters said they would vote for the president, compared to 18 percent who supported Romney.
The president’s speech came one day after the NALEAO gave a decidedly cool reception to a speech from Romney. The GOP challenger softened his stance a little, but like his economic approach, gave few details and evaded direct questions.
The Latino vote both candidates and political parties crave is rapidly becoming one of the most powerful caucuses in the nation. Obama won 67 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2008, and aides believe he could do even better in 2012.
Romney moved to the far right on the issue of immigration during the hard-fought GOP primary and one his top advisers, Kris Kobach, was the chief architect for Arizona’s anti-immigrant law passed just a few years ago.
Republican pundits have admitted that if Romney isn’t able to carry at least 31-32 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2012, his election chances are slim to none.
Friday, the Obama campaign released a 110-second online video with a montage of news clips depicting Romney sidestepping questions on whether he would repeal Obama’s policy if elected. “Why won’t Mitt Romney give a straight answer?” the video asks.
In addressing the Hispanic conference, Obama returned to a forum where four years ago he declared that he would push to bring 12 million illegal immigrants “out of the shadows by requiring them to take steps to become legal citizens.”
“That is a priority I will pursue from my very first day,” he said then.
Though hardly monolithic in their approach to politics, most Hispanics have been voting Democratic in recent elections. Obama has risked losing some support in part because Hispanics have been hard hit by the economy.
Obama spoke about two hours after Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who had been promoting a plan that would have dealt with young illegal immigrants in a similar fashion to what Obama accomplished administratively.
Rubio, a possible running mate for Romney, said the issue had been politicized and neither side wanted to solve it because it was a more powerful political tool if left to fester.
“I was accused of supporting apartheid,” Rubio said. “I was accused of supporting a Dream Act without a dream. Of course, a few months later the president takes a similar idea and implements it through executive action and now it’s the greatest idea in the world.”
He said “this issue is all about politics to some people. Not just Democrats, Republicans.” Romney has said he was studying Rubio’s proposal but has not endorsed it.
Obama senior campaign adviser David Axelrod said Friday that Romney has not yet “found his footing on this issue because he danced with the devil on this issue in order to become the Republican nominee…. He’s made his bed. It’s going to be hard to persuade people otherwise.”
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