(CBS News) FORT WORTH, Texas -- After Friday's news that Hispanic Americans suffered a spike in unemployment to 11 percent in May, up from 10.3 percent in April, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Tuesday made a renewed push for their support, arguing that the economy under President Obama's stewardship has been particularly hard on Hispanic citizens and businesses.
Romney took his campaign to Southwest Office Systems in Fort Worth, described on its website as the largest minority-owned, independent office equipment dealer in the Southwest. Romney told an audience of roughly 400 that one out of three people currently living in poverty in the United States is Hispanic, and said the president's policies had made it more difficult for Hispanic entrepreneurs and small business owners to expand their payrolls.
Southwest Office Systems owner Victor Puente told him that the company is down to 50 employees, after once employing 75, due to the "uncertainty" and "change" brought about by Mr. Obama's policies, Romney said.
The Obama campaign pushed back against Romney's claim that Hispanics are worse off, arguing that Hispanic unemployment dropped nearly 2 percentage points in the last 27 months, from 12.6 percent in March 2010 to 11 percent in May 2011. Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith attacked Romney's claim that he would quickly turn the economy around, pointing to his record as governor of Massachusetts.
"He certainly didn't put jobs first as governor, when he drove Massachusetts down to 47th out of 50 states in job creation," Smith said in a statement emailed to reporters. "Now he wants to bring back the same policies that crashed the economy and devastated the middle class in the first place: budget-busting tax cuts for the wealthiest on the middle class' dime and letting Wall Street write its own rules."
Romney's event was briefly interrupted by Hispanic protestors who were heard yelling "Education, not deportation," an indication of how much work he has to do in courting the community's support. A NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Telemundo poll, released on May 23, showed Mr. Obama leading Romney among Hispanic voters 61 percent to 27 percent.