As Romney Makes Another Push for Hispanic Voters, Rivals Call Foul

Monday, September 17, 2012 - 12:14pm

CNN — Mitt Romney's speech Monday to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce will include the promise to "permanently fix our immigration system," the latest in a series of attempts to appeal to Hispanic voters, despite polls showing the Republican presidential nominee facing a sizable deficit among the key voting group.

Romney will also take part in a question and answer session with the Spanish-language television network Univision later this week, signaling his campaign hasn't yet ceded the Hispanic vote to President Barack Obama (who sits down with Univision the next day). Obama leads Romney among Latino registered voters 64%-27%, according to a Gallup poll conducted partially before and partially after the Republican National Convention at the end of August.

That event included high-profile speaking slots for Latino Republicans, including U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who introduced Romney on the convention's final night.

In his address Monday, Romney is expected to largely stick to the main economic themes he has built his campaign around, telling the group of business leaders that policies pursued by his rival have disproportionately hurt Latino Americans.

"No one is exempt from the pain of this economy, but the Hispanic community has been particularly hard hit," Romney will say, according to excerpts of the speech released by his campaign. "While national unemployment is 8.1%, Hispanic unemployment is over 10%. Over two million more Hispanics are living in poverty today than the day President Obama took office."

He will also vow to work with members of both parties to develop a permanent fix for America's system of immigration, an issue the candidate's rivals have assailed him on in the past.

"Americans may disagree about how to fix our immigration system, but I think we can all agree that it is broken," Romney will say. "For years, Republicans and Democrats seem to have been more interested in playing politics with immigration than with actually fixing it."

The Republican nominee will also hit Obama, claiming the president is more interested in political gain that real reform.

"Like so many issues confronting our nation, when it comes to immigration, politics has been put ahead of people for too long," Romney will say.

On immigration, Romney has struggled in the past to frame his positions in ways that appeal both to Hispanic voters and the base of the Republican Party.

In December, Romney said he would veto the DREAM Act if he were president, saying instead he would support a path to residency -- not citizenship -- for those who served in the military, but not other DREAM Act proposals.

Later, Romney gave a more detailed version of his stance, telling supporters at a fund-raiser in Florida Republicans needed to offer their own version of the DREAM Act.

At a Republican presidential debate in January, Romney said he favored a system of "self-deportation," a policy that involves making economic conditions so difficult for undocumented workers that they choose to leave the country to find better opportunities. That stance was derided both by Democrats and his Republican rivals.

That record isn't going unmentioned by Romney's rivals as he attempts again to court the Latino vote. Obama's campaign released a web video Monday denouncing Romney's "Extreme Makeover, Latino Edition," claiming the candidate was attempting to "overhaul his positions and slow his sharply declining popularity in the Latino community."

"Can Romney cover up his belief in self-deportation as an immigration solution with a bold new wallpaper choice?" Team Obama asks. "Will a new window treatment help disguise his cuts to education and college scholarships? If he does something amazing with spackle, will people forget he's promised over and over again to repeal Obamacare on day one - denying millions of Latinos comprehensive health care coverage? And on his promise to veto the DREAM Act....well, duct tape can fix everything, can't it?"

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