Obama, GOP set to launch rival Latino outreach campaigns this week

Neil Munro White House Correspondent

President Barack Obama’s campaign team and the Republican National Committee will roll out rival campaigns this week to reach out to Latino voters.

The Obama campaign’s “Latinos for Obama” theme will begin April 18, with a synchronized set of house parties featuring a conference call with comedian George Lopez.

The rollout will come just after Obama used his attendance at the Summit of the Americas in Colombia to showcase his support among prominent Latinos, such as Columbian singer Shakira, and to tout his repeated promise to win passage of conditional amnesty for illegal immigrants.

“This is something I care deeply about … It’s personal to me,” he told the Spanish-language TV network Univision.

Obama packaged his promise with a request for Latino support in November. To change immigration law, “what we need is a change either of Congress or we need Republicans to change their mind, and I think this has to be an important debate during — throughout the country,” he said in the April 14 interview.

Republicans have their own jobs-focused pitch to Latinos, which they’re expected to roll out Monday morning in a press conference with Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, and his Hispanic outreach director, Bettina Inclán.

Inclán is a Florida-based consultant who has argued that a critical mass of Latinos can be persuaded to support the GOP if Republicans’ message combines respect for Latinos with economy-boosting policies.

The GOP doesn’t need a majority of Latino votes to win the November elections, but a 40 percent share would deny Democrats the votes they need to offset expected losses among white voters in vital swing-states like North Carolina, Florida, Colorado and Virginia.

Gov. Mitt Romney is also developing a Latino outreach plan, and told attendees at an April 15 fundraiser in Palm Beach, Fla.,  that “we have to get Hispanic voters to vote for our party,” according to an NBC News report.

Unless the GOP can improve it support among Latinos, he said, their support for Obama “spells doom for us.”

Several recent polls show that most Latinos are dissatisfied with Obama’s performance. Yet a March poll by Fox News Latino tagged Obama’s support among Latinos at 70 percent.

To win over Latinos, Romney suggested a “Republican DREAM Act” that would give conditional amnesty to some illegal immigrants, NBC reported.

Romney also argued that Latinos would vote for the candidate with the better economic policy. Currently, the formal unemployment rate among Latinos is 10.3 percent, well above the white unemployment rate of 7.3 percent.

Meanwhile, Obama’s campaign team is pushing hard to register and turn out Latino voters — especially first-time voters — who tend to vote at lower rates than whites or African-Americans.

To win those Latino votes, Obama’s campaign has hired Colorado-based consultant Katherine Archuleta.

Obama’s pitch to Latinos features repeated promises of a conditional amnesty. That pitch pleases the Latino advocacy groups and also portrays Obama as a respectful friend of the nation’s Latino communities.

In Colombia, for example, Obama highlighted his immigrant roots during an April 15 speech at an event where Latinos with African ancestry were given legal title to land.

“Being here holds special meaning for me,” he declared. “Early in my presidency, my family and I visited Ghana, in West Africa … and I’ll never forget my two young daughters — the descendants of Africans and African-Americans — looking out through the ‘door of no return’ where so many Africans began their forced journey to this hemisphere.”

He also blended that pitch with his standard campaign-trail pitch for more spending.

“When we look out to these children behind us, these beautiful children, they have a brighter future ahead of them,” he continued. “That future will only be fulfilled if we’re making investments in them every single day, as Shakira and the first lady are working to do — as … I have to commit ourselves to do.”

Obama’s Latino outreach message also puts more emphasis on his health care overhaul law and his education spending than it does on an amnesty.

“President Obama has delivered on a number of issues that Latinos care about — from doubling funding for Pell Grants, helping give an additional 150,000 Latino students access to an affordable college education, to making sure that 9 million more Latinos can gain the security of quality health insurance,” says the blog post announcing the April 18 “Latinos for Obama” event.

“There is still work to be done — like fixing our broken immigration system.”

Although polls show Latino voters are most concerned about jobs and education, the amnesty issue is symbolically and practically important to Latinos. That’s partly because many Latino voters feel excluded from mainstream American society and have friends or relatives who are illegal immigrants.

Obama’s pitch is also packaged with escalating criticism of likely GOP nominee Gov. Mitt Romney.

“Romney, our presumptive opponent, is one of the most anti-immigrant nominees in recent history … he thinks all undocumented immigrants should ‘self-deport,’” says the blog post.

“Throw in his plans to repeal Obamacare and gut Social Security benefits, and a Romney presidency could set progress for Latinos back decades,” the post claims.

The GOP’s counter-messages usually portray Obama’s amnesty-related promises as insincere, and also blame Obama for the relatively high unemployment rates among Latinos.

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