Politics

Obama stumps for Hispanic votes

Neil Munro White House Correspondent

President Barack Obama delivered a Hispanic-themed version of his stump speech Wednesday night to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, complete with his claim that Republicans are unpatriotic for refusing to endorse his policies.

“If we’re being honest, we know the real problem isn’t the members of Congress in this room” who support an immigration bill favored by Hispanic advocacy groups, he told the assembled legislators and ethnic advocates. “It’s the members of Congress who put party before country because they believe the only way to resolve our differences is to wait 14 months till the next election,” he said to the friendly crowd at Washington D.C.’s convention center.

The Hispanic advocacy groups are expected to play a central role in Obama’s re-election campaign because they’re working with Obama’s campaign to spur Hispanics to vote for Obama.

However, recent polls shows Hispanics’ support for Obama has plummeted from a high of 82 percent in Spring 2009 to 48 percent, according to Gallup. The plunge came largely because of Hispanics’ disappointment that the Obama-led government has not generated millions of new jobs.

If unchanged, that decline could gravely threaten Obama’s chances of winning Florida and other swing-states, where even small Hispanic communities could help tip a state into his column in November 2012. For example, a poll from late August by Sachs/Mason-Dixon showed that Obama’s approval had dropped to 41 percent in Florida.

The White House showed the extent of its concern by releasing a 3,731-word press release describing what the Obama administration has already done for Hispanics. The document also included lengthy descriptions of how his proposed one-year, $446 billion economic stimulus would aid Hispanic workers and employers. (RELATED: Win a date with Barack Obama!)

“With unemployment among Hispanics at an unacceptably high rate of 11.3 percent — and nearly 1 million Hispanic Americans out of work for six months or more — the President believes that we must take action to support the hard-working families that drive our nation’s prosperity and growth,” said the release.

The Wednesday night speech included routine calls for the audience to lobby for his new stimulus bill, extended descriptions of its promised benefits, extensive criticism of his GOP opponents for not supporting immigration rules favored by Democrats, and an appeal for support. “If you think it’s time to stop the political games and finally pass [a partial amnesty for younger illegal immigrants] and reform our immigration system, pick up the phone, get on the computer — tell your representatives in Washington the time is action — the time for action is now,” he said.

“We can’t wait,” he said, some 32 months after he was inaugurated in January 2009.

For his audience of Hispanic advocates, he also briefly described his willingness to use his executive authority, and his control over enforcement agencies, to bypass Congress’ opposition to an amnesty for illegal immigrants. Over the last few months, he has directed enforcement agencies to largely ignore illegal immigrants that do not break major laws. This policy has been heavily criticized by advocates for enforcement of existing laws, who say his policies have effectively granted amnesty to 300,000 or more illegal immigrants.

“We’ve got laws on the books that have to be upheld,” he told his audience. But “the Department of Homeland Security is applying common-sense standards for immigration enforcement … [and] we’ve made progress so that our enforcement policies prioritize criminals who endanger our communities, not students trying to achieve the American Dream,” he said.

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