Obama Urges Latinos to Vote if They Want to See Immigration Reform
Candidates have forever promised immigration reform in exchange for the Latino vote. Mostly, the promise has been hard to keep. But is it different this year? There’s been a lot of talk about the importance of the Latino vote in 2012. And there have been ramped up efforts to register Latino voters. Will Latino’s be too organized to ignore after they help elect the next president?
President Obama Tuesday uttered a now-familiar refrain at his first news conference of the year: a large Latino turnout in November could trigger greater support for immigration reform.
The president, who’s stated goal is to win the largest share of the Latino vote ever, has said in multiple roundtables and interviews that Latinos need to make their voice heard at the ballot box to make immigration reform a consensus issue in Congress.
“My hope is that after this election the Latino community will have sent a strong message that they want a bipartisan effort to pass comprehensive immigration reform,” Obama said.
With his press conference, Obama sought to directly address the immigration issue, which could be a major liability for his Republican opponents with Latino voters in November. The press conference came on the same day as Super Tuesday, when all eyes will be on the Republican primary race, and Obama called on a Telemundo reporter who proceeded to ask him about the Latino vote and immigration reform.
Though Latinos rank the economy and jobs far ahead of immigration in opinion polls, immigration still acts as a litmus test of whether politicians can gain credibility with the majority of Latino voters.
So far, it appears Republican tough talk on immigration has turned off many Latino voters. A Fox News Latino poll released Monday showed Obama leading his chief rival, Mitt Romney, by a whopping six-to-one margin among Latino voters.
But some observers fear a lack of enthusiasm for Obama among Latinos, driven by the poor economy and the deadlock over immigration, could drive down turnout in the fall. Thus, Obama’s message to Latino voters is that he is on their side on the issue, even though he hasn’t been able to usher a bill through Congress.
“Speaking substantively, every American should want immigration reform. We have a system that is broken,” he said. “We can be a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. And it is not just a Hispanic issue, this is an issue for everybody, this is an American issue.”
But the president blamed the fact his administration “ha[sn’t] gotten it done” on immigration reform on near-universal opposition from Republicans in Congress on what used to be a bipartisan issue. Obama said he put forward a “framework, a proposal legislation” for immigration reform. But ultimately, passage will hinge on Republican support, he said.
“I can’t vote for Republicans. They’re going to have to come to the conclusion that this is good for the country,” he said. “Depending on how Congress turns out, we’ll see how many Republican votes we need to get it done.”
In reaction to Obama’s comments, Republicans blamed the lack of progress on immigration on foot-dragging by Obama.
Other key moments:
- Obama rebuked his Republican opponents for their hawkish rhetoric against Iran. “Typically, it’s not people who are popping off who pay the price. It’s these incredible people in uniform,” Obama said. “If some of these folks think it’s time to launch a war, they should say that.”
- In a moment that was reminiscent of Mitt Romney’s cringe-worthy line: “I’m running for office, for Pete’s sake,” Obama said regarding Republican claims he wants high gas prices: “Just from a political perspective, do you think the president of the United States going into reelection wants gas prices to go up higher?”
- Obama refused to comment on conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh’s apology to Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke, for calling her a “slut.” But he did say he called her “because I thought about Malia and Sasha.” He continued, “I don’t want them attacked or called horrible names because they’re being good citizens.”
- And in the funniest moment of the presser, Obama was asked how he would respond to attacks from Romney on foreign policy. “Good luck tonight,” Obama said. “Really?” responded a reporter. “Really,” Obama said.