- The Washington Times - Monday, April 16, 2012

The chairman of the Republican National Committee said Monday that the key to winning over Hispanic voters this year is to convince them that President Obama has failed to strengthen their economic prospects — not by pandering to them with promises of a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

Speaking to reporters in a conference call, Reince Priebus described the economy as an “emotional” issue for Hispanic voters, the nation’s fastest-growing voting bloc, and said that Mr. Obama has failed to deliver the kind of immigration reform that he touted during the 2008 presidential campaign.

“The president delivered a fat goose egg on the issue,” he said, specifically referring to the president’s failure to overhaul federal immigration laws or offer a pathway to citizenship for those in the country illegally. “He is the person who traveled and campaigned on the basis of [a citizenship] pathway and delivered nothing. I mean, once someone lies to you multiple times, … why would you believe him again?”

The conference call comes as the national party prepares for the stretch-run of the presidential election, which will kick into high gear when thousands gathered in Tampa for the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. in late August.

While the White House is the big prize up for grabs, 33 Senate seats and all 435 seats in the House — including several races where Hispanic voters could make or break a campaign — will be on the ballot.

Mr. Obama won 67 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2008, easily outperforming Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who pulled in 31 percent percent of the vote.

President George W. Bush won 44 percent of the Hispanic vote in his 2004 re-election bid against Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry of Democrat.

Fast-forward to today and polls suggest that Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, could have a tough time appealing to Hispanics after staking out some of the most conservative positions on immigration of any of the candidates in the GOP presidential field.

The former Massachusetts governor vowed to oppose the so-called “Dream Act” that would give citizenship to many children of illegal immigrants, called Arizona’s strict immigration law a “model” for other states and welcomed endorsements from noted hard-liners against illegal immigration.

A Fox News poll released last month showed that 70 percent of Hispanics said they would vote for Mr. Obama and 14 percent for Mr. Romney in a head-to-head matchup.

Meanwhile, nine out of 10 Hispanic U.S. citizens said they support the Dream Act, while eight in 10 said they support a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.

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