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Obama team steps up outreach to Hispanics

Obama, latinos, hispanics
screenshot of Spanish-language Obama for America ad

At a point in the election season when Republicans are turning their attention to the Latino community, President Obama's re-election team is seeking to lock down its support among the critical voting bloc and cast Romney as a far-right candidate who doesn't value Hispanic Americans.

Romney is "on the wrong side of every single issue that's important to the Hispanic community, particularly on the issue of immigration," San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, an Obama for America national co-chair, told reporters on Wednesday. "Mitt Romney would be the most extreme nominee that the Republican party has ever had on immigration."

Castro blasted Romney for opposing the Democrats' version of the Dream Act, a bill that would give certain undocumented youths a path to citizenship, and for backing the "inhumane" policy of "self-deportation."

"For Hispanic Americans, this November offers a very clear contrast," Castro said.

While Republicans took a hard line on issues like immigration early on in the primary, it's clear Romney and the GOP intend to soften their rhetoric. Romney said in a private meeting with supporters over the weekend that Republicans need to cater to Latinos more with policies like a GOP-version of the Dream Act. He recently hired Republican strategist Ed Gillespie, a longtime advocate of Hispanic voter outreach. And the Republican National Committee this week launched an initiative to expand Hispanic outreach in six key states.

Obama campaign manager Jim Messina told reporters today, "I feel very sorry for those [Republican] organizers." Charging that Republicans have stood in the way of immigration reform, he said, "Latino voters aren't going to be fooled."

Moreover, Messina said there will be a "stark difference" in the level of Hispanic outreach between Democrats and Republicans. While the RNC is launching its state-based program this week, the Obama team has had operatives on the ground engaging with Hispanics for over a year.

And today, the Obama re-election team is launching Latinos for Obama, which it says is the largest ever national effort to engage Hispanic voters through voter registration, volunteering and voter turnout efforts. The initiative includes hundreds of events like house parties in the coming weeks, as well as a Spanish-language ad campaign.

The Spanish-language ads will run on radio and television in three key states -- Nevada, Florida and Colorado -- and will feature Obama for America organizers sharing their personal stories.

Republicans argue that Mr. Obama has let the Latino community down by failing to follow through on his promises to enact immigration reform or the Dream Act -- even when Democrats had a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate and control of the House. Furthermore, they point to statistics showing that Hispanics suffer from a higher-than-average unemployment rate.

But so far, those issues haven't significantly hurt Mr. Obama's standing with the traditionally-Democratic voting bloc: A new Pew Research poll shows Hispanic voters prefer Mr. Obama to Romney 67 percent to 27 percent.

Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., told reporters that Mr. Obama has "fought for Hispanic families, and he's delivered."

Mr. Obama and his supporters say there's plenty of evidence to support that: For instance, they say 9 million Hispanics are getting health coverage because of the health care overhaul, while 1.2 million Hispanics have jobs because of the president's economic policies.

They also say the president still strongly supports the Dream Act and comprehensive immigration reform.

"The president reminds us that change doesn't come easy or fast," said Lynnette Acosta, a national co-chair and Florida organizer for Obama for America. "It comes only when we fight for it and stay at it."

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