- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 24, 2012

DAVENPORT, Iowa — The Obama campaign’s reliance on Hispanic voters in the upcoming election was on full display Wednesday as President Obama dangled the prospect of immigration reform next year, and a top aide predicted that the country’s fast-growing number of minority voters will propel the president to a second term over rival Mitt Romney next month.

In an interview that the White House originally insisted be kept off the record, Mr. Obama told the leading Iowa newspaper that he is confident he will achieve immigration reform next year if he is re-elected, a pledge on which he failed to deliver in his first term.

“Since this is off the record, I will just be very blunt,” Mr. Obama told the editor and publisher of the Des Moines Register in a 30-minute phone call as part of a pitch for the paper’s endorsement. “Should I win a second term, a big reason I will win a second term is because the Republican nominee and the Republican Party have so alienated the fastest-growing demographic group in the country, the Latino community.”

It was the latest in a series of less-than-subtle appeals by the president this year to Hispanics, whose growing clout could make the difference in battleground states such as Florida, Colorado, Nevada, Virginia and Iowa. In the campaign’s final two weeks, the president’s political strategists are focused mainly on persuading Mr. Obama’s supporters to go to the polls, despite high unemployment rates among minorities. In polls, Mr. Obama holds a lead of more than 30 percentage points over Mr. Romney among Hispanic voters.

Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki said minority early voting patterns in swing states are encouraging.

“Even though the Romney team has been talking down the potential for minority turnout — African-American and Latino populations in this country — we think it will be a record turnout,” she said.

A senior adviser to the president, David Plouffe, told reporters that the burgeoning voter rolls of Hispanics and blacks this year is “a big thing to understand.”

“In every state, there are going to be more Latino voters than there were four years ago,” Mr. Plouffe said. “In Florida, there’s going to be hundreds of thousands more Latinos and African-Americans voting than there were last time. The demographics of some of these states are already improved, through nothing we’ve done. The electorate is just more friendly to the president than it was four years ago.”

Mr. Plouffe said the election will be an eye-opener for Republican lawmakers who have resisted immigration reform.

“If you lose a presidential election with Latino voters by 40 points in a vastly growing country, the responsible thing to do if you’re that party that’s losing by 40 points is to look in the mirror,” he said.

GOP pushback

A spokesman for the Romney campaign said the president’s strategy is to once again take advantage of Hispanic voters by making promises that go unfulfilled.

“It’s a fascinating glimpse into how President Obama has taken the Hispanic community for granted for the past four years,” said spokesman Alberto Martinez. “He’s caught making secret promises to an editorial board in Iowa, which also happens to be a promise he made in 2008, a promise he failed to keep, and a promise he doesn’t repeat publicly. The whole episode underscores why millions of Hispanics are deeply disappointed with President Obama. Hispanics view President Obama as a weak leader who makes promises he can’t keep and has pursued policies that have failed all Americans.”

Mr. Obama won the Hispanic vote by about 2-to-1 in 2008 over Republican Sen. John McCain. In most surveys, more than 95 percent of black voters also favored Mr. Obama.

The president told the newspaper that Republicans’ alienation of Hispanics “is a relatively new phenomenon.”

“George Bush and Karl Rove were smart enough to understand the changing nature of America,” Mr. Obama said. “And so I am fairly confident that they’re going to have a deep interest in getting [immigration reform] done. And I want to get it done because it’s the right thing to do, and I’ve cared about this ever since I ran back in 2008.”

Mr. Obama pledged in the 2008 campaign to make immigration reform a priority during his first year in office, but failed to follow through by offering any legislative proposal to Congress. Leaders of the Hispanic community and others have been especially critical of his broken promise. Mr. Romney has made an economic appeal to Hispanic voters by pointing out the lack of jobs under Mr. Obama’s leadership.

Iowa push

The president held a campaign rally in Iowa on Wednesday morning, his 10th visit to the battleground state this year. “This is where the movement for change began,” he told about 3,500 cheering supporters at the Mississippi Valley fairgrounds, referring to his victory four years ago in the state’s Democratic caucuses to jump-start his long-shot presidential bid.

It was his first stop on a 48-hour blitz of six battleground states as the campaign entered its final two weeks.

The president gave the interview to Iowa’s most influential newspaper Tuesday as he lobbied for its endorsement, which will be announced Saturday. Mr. Obama holds a slight lead in Iowa polls over Mr. Romney, who has closed the gap in the state since the presidential debates.

Mr. Obama joked with the newspaper’s managers that “you’ll feel better” if they endorse him.

The White House originally insisted that the president’s interview be kept from the public, although Mr. Obama’s comments on immigration and other topics didn’t diverge much from his public remarks on those issues. White House officials reversed course Wednesday morning and released a transcript of the interview after Register Editor Rick Green publicly complained to readers about the secretive nature of the interview. Mr. Green openly speculated that the White House had been worried that the president might commit a gaffe that could hurt him in the election.

The president also told the newspaper that he expects to get “the equivalent of the grand bargain” with Republicans after the election on the looming “fiscal cliff” of spending cuts and deficit reduction, using the blueprint of the bipartisan budget commission that Mr. Obama previously did not endorse.

“We can easily meet — ‘easily’ is the wrong word — we can credibly meet the target that the Bowles-Simpson Commission established of $4 trillion in deficit reduction, and even more in the [later years], and we can stabilize our deficit-to-GDP ratio in a way that is really going to be a good foundation for long-term growth,” Mr. Obama said. “Now, once we get that done, that takes a huge piece of business off the table.”

Voting in Iowa began Sept. 27, and nearly 520,000 people have requested early ballots. In 2008, Mr. Obama defeated Mr. McCain in the state by about 9.5 percentage points.

The president’s campaign stop in Iowa launched two days of almost round-the-clock campaigning in battleground states. Mr. Obama held a rally later Wednesday with upward of 10,000 supporters at a park in Denver before flying to Los Angeles to tape a segment of “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno, followed by a late-night campaign event in Las Vegas.

Mr. Obama was scheduled to fly overnight on Air Force One to Florida to hold a campaign rally in Tampa before traveling to Richmond and Cleveland for more campaign events.