With 50 days left before election day, Republican candidate Mitt Romney will attempt to reset his campaign this week by trying to cut into the support President Barack Obama has among Hispanic voters and maintaining financial parity with the incumbent by holding fundraisers from California to Florida.
Romney has lost ground in polls following the political conventions in late August and early September. The debate has shifted to issues around the new national health care law’s coverage of pre-existing conditions and the administration’s handling of protests in Libya and other Middle Eastern nations. A poll released Sept. 14 by CBS and the New York Times showed Obama taking a three percentage point edge over Romney.
Today, in a speech to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Romney will turn the conversation back to the national deficit, small businesses and jobs -- topics that may work to the strengths of the former Bain Capital LLC private equity executive.
“No one is exempt from the pain of this economy, but the Hispanic community has been particularly hard hit,” Romney will say, according to prepared remarks released by his campaign. “Over two million more Hispanics are living in poverty today than the day President Obama took office.”
“In 2008, candidate Obama promised us a world of limitless hope. What we got instead is a world where hope has painful limits -- limits that make it harder to start a business, to grow a business, or to find a job,” Romney will say, according to the excerpts.
His appeal to Hispanic voters aims to blunt the support Obama enjoys especially in battleground states with large Hispanic populations such as Florida, Colorado, Nevada and Virginia.
“He doesn’t have much Latino support, especially compared to Obama, but the support he does have he needs to fire up and make sure he has with him,” said Victoria M. DeFrancesco Soto, a fellow at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas in Austin.
Hispanics helped propel Obama to the White House in the 2008 election. He won 67 percent of their vote, compared to 31 percent for Republican John McCain, according to exit polls. Obama led Romney 66 percent to 29 percent in a survey of registered Hispanic voters by the polling firm Latino Decisions and impreMedia that was taken Aug. 31 through Sept. 6.
Romney must secure a larger proportion of the Hispanic vote than McCain to have a chance at winning the White House, DeFrancesco Soto said. As part of that, she said, he’ll also be trying to convince Obama’s Hispanic supporters to “stay home” on Election Day because of disappointment with his failure to deliver the overhaul of immigration law he promised in 2008.
“For years, Republicans and Democrats seem to have been more interested in playing politics with immigration than with actually fixing it,” Romney will say, according to the campaign’s transcript. “Candidate Obama said that one of his highest priorities would be to fix immigration in his first year in office. Despite his party having majorities in both house of Congress, the president never even offered up a bill.”
Romney, 65, started the general election season with an uphill climb with Hispanics. During the Republican primary contest, he used tougher rhetoric than some of his adversaries when discussing illegal immigration, stressing his opposition to any proposal that gives legal status to undocumented immigrants without first requiring that they leave the U.S., and advocating a program that he said would lead to “self-deportation.”
He made no distinction at that time for young illegal immigrants brought to the country as children -- a group Obama targeted with a friendly executive order paving the way to citizenship for some of them.
“It left a bad taste in the mouths of Latinos,” DeFrancesco Soto said. “He is an awkward candidate and it is hard for him to get beyond these issues because he doesn’t have the personality vehicle.”
Since securing the nomination, Romney has tried to moderate his position by stressing the difficulties Hispanics have experienced in the economic downturn. The unemployment rate among Hispanics was 10.2 percent last month.
With the national unemployment rate at 8.1 percent, the politics of immigration are sensitive because neither party wants to be viewed as favoring those in the country illegally over existing American workers.
In a move that pleased many Hispanics, Obama on June 15 announced implementation of key parts of the so-called “Dream Act,” including exemption from deportation for some illegal immigrants under the age of 30 brought to the U.S. before they turned 16 and who have been in the country for at least five straight years. Those exempted must have no criminal history and are attending school or have earned a high school degree or its equivalent, or have served in the military.
Romney has said he favors awarding permanent residency to foreign students who obtain advanced degrees in math, science or engineering at universities, saying they should have green cards stapled to their diplomas. He also supports providing a pathway to legal status for illegal immigrants who serve in the military.
The Romney campaign has run Spanish-language television ads targeting Hispanics, including one called “No podemos mas” -- translated to “We no longer can” -- that contrasts with Obama’s 2008 campaign slogan, “Yes, we can.”
Obama is scheduled to campaign today in the Ohio cities of Cincinnati and Columbus. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll released Sept. 13 showed him leading Romney there, 50 percent to 43 percent. Romney also trailed the president by 5 percentage points in Florida and Virginia, two additional states Obama won in 2008, the poll showed.
Both men have continued to attend the kind of large fundraisers that in previous presidential elections started to become rarer by mid-September, as the focus typically turned more to in-person campaigning. Obama’s campaign raised $114 million in August, more than the $111.6 million collected by Romney.
The totals include money raised by their campaigns as well as by joint fundraising efforts with their respective national political parties. It was the first time in four months that Obama’s fundraising efforts had surpassed Romney’s.
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