Mitt Romney faces uphill battle in fight for Hispanic voters

The Takeaway

Mitt Romney won the Florida primary handily on Tuesday. (Photo by Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons.)

Both President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will appeal to Hispanics voters this week at an annual conference for Latino politicians in Orlando.

The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials' annual conference has a long history of presidential hopefuls appearing to appeak to Hispanic voters. Romney, Obama's Republican challenger in the November presidential election, will speak at the conference Thursday. Obama's appearance is scheduled for Friday.

Romney’s biggest challenge will be to find a way to contend with Obama's announcement last Friday that his administration would stop deporting many illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. before they turned 16.

The executive action could temporarily benefit more than 800,000 young people.

It could also help secure Obama’s popularity among Hispanic voters. An ABC News/Washington Post poll earlier this spring showed that 73 percent of Latinos already supported him, compared with 26 percent for Romney.

Obama's announcement was received well by more than just American Latinos. Sixty-four percent of likely voters agree with the new policy, while 30 percent disagree, according to a Bloomberg poll released Tuesday.

While Obama's popularity among Hispanics continues to grow, Romney is still pushing to gain their support. On Wednesday, the Republican National Committee released an online video attacking the president for the country's economic woes and the disproportionate effect it’s had on Latinos.

Sylvia Garcia, who organized Hispanic outreach for Republican Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign, praised the video’s message. She says Romney’s best chance with Latinos is to focus on the economy.

With 11 percent unemployment, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Garcia says Hispanic voters should be more worried about jobs than immigration.

"Immigration is extremely important — I'm not going to take away from that,” she said. “But you need to think 'how is my country doing today.'"

DeeDee Blase is a founding member of the National Tequila Party, a female-led political group for Hispanics. Unlike Garcia, she says it's impossible to separate the immigration issue from the economic one.

What Blase descibes as Romney’s isolationist policies — and an endorsement by the anti-immigration activist Kris Kobach — make her doubt his ability to fix the economy. She says Hispanic voters should "make a calculated decision" by voting for Obama.

"Their calculated risk should be on a second termer," she said. "We cannot gamble our chips and invest our voting into Mitt Romney."

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