Posted on evening of Sept. 20 for publication Sept. 21.
Campaign strategists on both sides of the Democratic-Republican divide fret daily about how big the HispanicLatino vote might be and how high a margin among HispanicLatinos President Barack Obama will rack up in November. Most polls have him attracting 65 percent of the HispanicLatino vote and some surveys have him bumping 70 percent. Anything more than 70 percent will trigger an electoral vote rout.
Obama did little to hurt himself when he confronted Jorge Ramos and María Elena Salinas last night on Univision the day after Mitt Romney faced the same journalistic duo. Obama went to Miami knowing he had to face tough questions from Ramos who is unyielding in his criticism of the administration’s failure to bring about immigration reform – a public commitment made on national television by the Democratic nominee in 2008. And, the same network reminds us often, Obama’s administration has deported more immigrants than any other in history. Indeed, Salinas followed up with a question that made the very point.
Obama did his best to explain why he failed on a larger immigration package and why he had to settle for and resort to harried executive action to implement, in effect, a part of the Dream Act. Obama almost fumbled the ball at this point not realizing that perhaps Ramos and Salinas were looking for an apology of sorts that would have resonated with HispanicLatinos nationwide. But Obama held on, not giving anything up but also not scoring when he could have. Perhaps he knew that after the perfunctory skirmish over immigration and deportations he would be en su casa. He was made to feel welcomed and at home by an audience much more respectful of the need for public discourse than the spiteful crowd that embarrassingly tried to prop up a struggling Romney the previous evening.
The hour was far too short to address effectively the business of the nation, the business of the HispanicLatino community. But it was enough time for Obama to reinforce his standing with HispanicLatino voters. Obama’s advisors would do well to find more opportunities for HispanicLatinos to interact with him in the next few weeks. And they might want to think about a little more contrition on the immigration thing. HispanicLatinos, like the rest of the nation, already feel more at ease with Obama than with Romney. In fact, Romney’s disagreeable “47-percent” statements denigrate more than 70 percent of the HispanicLatino community. There might be reason, then, to believe that Obama’s support among HispanicLatinos can be pushed beyond his already high numbers, and running up the score in the key swing states could bring about an electoral landslide.
Elevating the intensity among HispanicLatinos makes strategic sense. The deeper the emotional commitment to Obama that can be achieved by the campaign, the greater the chance that individual HispanicLatino voters will take the care to make sure they are prepared to vote – and to vote properly. Highly motivated HispanicLatinos can face down, confront and neutralize expected Republican efforts to dampen and suppress their vote.
So far, nothing the Romney campaign has done or said seems to have mattered to HispanicLatinos – except to give them even more reasons to stick with Obama.
The President, on the other hand, said enough last night to keep moving the ball forward and for his campaign team to keep its eye on how to light up the scoreboard.
Jesse Treviño is the former editorial page editor of The Austin American-Statesman.