Obama seeks to extend edge with Latino voters over Romney

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 22, 2012 3:13 PM
Obama seeks to extend edge with Latino voters over Romney

By Laura MacInnis

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Florida (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama assured Hispanic Americans on Friday he would champion immigration reform in a second term, contrasting his vision with Republican White House contender Mitt Romney to court voters who could help sway the election on November 6.

Addressing an enthusiastic Latino crowd, who had given his rival a cool reception a day before, Obama is already polling ahead of Romney among Latinos in swing states like Florida, Virginia and Colorado vital to the November vote.

"One of America's greatest strengths has always been our ability to attract talent and hard-working people, who believe in this country and who want to make it strong. Our current immigration system doesn't reflect those values," he said.

The president received standing ovations from much of the crowd when he talked about healthcare reform and his recent decision not to target 800,000 young people for deportation.

The warmth of the audience contrasted sharply with Romney's tepid welcome.

With more than 50 million people with Latin American roots living in the United States, the fastest growing slice of the electorate could decisively influence the result in November.

Neither Obama nor Romney speak Spanish, although the Republican's father was born in Mexico, where he has some relatives.

A poll released on Friday by Latino Decisions and America's Voice found Obama had a commanding lead over Romney among Hispanics in key election battlegrounds including Florida, Colorado and Virginia.

Some analysts say Romney cannot win the White House without carrying two of those three states.

But Obama cannot afford to take Latino voters for granted. Many are frustrated with his failure to deliver on 2008 campaign promises for immigration reform.

As a result, he went out of his way to deflect blame toward lawmakers for the lack of progress during his address to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, while reminding Hispanics that Romney was on record opposing reforms that the community holds dear.

"Your speaker from yesterday has a different view. In a 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," Obama said.

The DREAM Act, offering children brought to the country illegally a path to citizenship, failed to pass the U.S. Senate in December 2010 after most Republicans and some Democrats voted against it.

(Edited by Alistair Bell and Xavier Briand)