Obama huddles with Hispanic groups to woo support for 2012 race

President Barack Obama is hosting a White House meeting for Hispanic advocacy groups Monday, just a week after a Gallup poll of Hispanic voters revealed potentially lethal news for his re-election chances.

The Gallup poll showed that Obama’s support among Hispanics fell almost a third in the last 18 months, down from 73 percent in December 2009 to 52 percent in June 2011. That’s very bad news for Democrats, because Obama’s re-election strategy depends on a Hispanic landslide in swing states such as Florida and Virginia.

But it is good news for Republicans, who are trying to boost their share of the overall Hispanic vote up to and beyond 40 percent.

The two-day Hispanic Policy Conference brings “community leaders from across the country together with a broad range of White House and Cabinet officials for an in-depth series of interactive workshops and substantive conversations,” according to a White House statement issued Friday. The event is being held in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, which is part of the White House complex, and only a minute’s walk from the White House.

The ethnic advocates will meet with senior officials, including Tom Perez, who runs the social-issues arm of the Department of Justice, Alejandro Mayorkas, the director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, and Felicia Escobar, the White House’s senior immigration advisor. Most of the meeting will be open to press, but the schedule excludes media at 4.30 p.m. President Obama may choose to meet the advocates at that time.

Over the last few months, Obama has met several times with Hispanic opinion-leaders, including news, radio and entertainment personalities, because he needs to spur a massive turnout of Hispanic supporters in 2012. (Obama seeks 2012 victory via debt talks)

On July 7, White House senior aide David Plouffe said the president’s re-election campaign would win on a wave of votes from blacks and Hispanics. “We believe that we can improve over what we did in 2008 in turnout in some of those base Obama groups,” he told reporters at a breakfast organized by Bloomberg’s political news operation in Washington, D.C.

The Hispanic community is critical to the campaign, because it includes a large pool of potentially sympathetic new voters who could offset Obama’s low ratings of 38 percent among white voters and 39 percent among seniors.

Gallup’s poll of 15,344 adults showed that that task is getting increasingly difficult. “Real improvement in the U.S. economy, including lower unemployment, would go a long way toward restoring approval to 2009 levels,” said the poll. But job-creation practically stopped in May and June, as the formal unemployment rate edged up to 9.2 percent, and the underemployment rate reached 16.2 percent. Hispanic unemployment is at least 11.6 percent.