By Colleen Jenkins
CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (Reuters) - San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro made the case for re-electing Democratic President Barack Obama on Tuesday, saying that Obama understands the struggles of the middle class better than his multi-millionaire Republican opponent, Mitt Romney.
Castro, a Mexican-American who was the first Latino tapped to give the keynote address at a Democratic National Convention, said Americans need a leader willing to invest in opportunity for individuals to create prosperity.
In a speech laced with humor and digs at Romney, Castro told an enthusiastic crowd of delegates here that Obama saved the auto industry and a million jobs through a government bailout, expanded health care to nearly all Americans and lifted the threat of deportation for many young immigrants whose parents came to the United States illegally.
In contrast, Castro said, Romney had backed a healthcare overhaul as governor of Massachusetts - a plan that was used as a model for Obama's plan - but now opposed such a federal program, which includes a requirement that most Americans buy health insurance.
"Governor Romney has undergone an extreme makeover, and it ain't pretty," Castro said.
Castro, 37, credited the hard work of his grandmother, who came to the United States from Mexico at age six as an orphan, and his mother, the first in her family to graduate college, with giving him and his twin brother Joaquin the chance to attend Stanford and Harvard Law School.
Joaquin Castro, who introduced his brother on Tuesday, is a Texas state legislator who is favored to win a seat in the U.S. Congress in the November 6 election.
Democrats are relying on strong support from Hispanics to help Obama win re-election. Julian Castro, who like many grandchildren of Mexican immigrants does not speak fluent Spanish, peppered his speech with a Spanish phrase his grandmother once used.
With delegates chanting "four more years," Castro painted Romney as out of touch with the concerns of average Americans and Obama as a leader in tune with what they needed to get ahead.
"Mitt Romney just doesn't get it," Castro said. "But Barack Obama gets it. He understands that when we invest in people, we're investing in our shared prosperity."
(Editing by David Lindsey and Alden Bentley)