President Barack Obama fired back at Republican rival Mitt Romney during a speech this afternoon to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. Coming a day after Romney accused the Democratic president of taking the Latino vote for granted, Obama gave an almost point-by-point rebuttal to Romney – without mentioning his name.
“What’s holding us back is not a lack of big ideas…it’s a stalemate in Washington between two fundamentally different views of how we should go,” said Obama to the crowd. Obama said “yesterday’s featured speaker” and the Republican party believe in growing an economy from the “top down,” saying this would gut middle class priorities. Yesterday Romney cited Latino unemployment figures of 11 percent and high Latino poverty rates, saying under the Obama administration, “Hispanics have been hit disproportionately hard.”
While saying there was still “a lot of work to do,” Obama defended his administration’s achievements, such as passing the health care legislation, as the “right thing to do.” Though the future of the current health care law is uncertain pending the Supreme Court decision, Obama said 9 million Latinos benefited from the law. Obama also touted the increase in funding for Pell Grants as well as for community colleges as steps which had helped Latino families. He contrasted this with what he referred to as the Republican plan to give “companies more power” and “tax cuts for millionaires.”
But José Fuentes, co-chair of the “Juntos con Romney” Hispanic Advisory Steering Committee who was in attendance during the speech, accused Obama of using excuses for why the economy is not better.
“If you are just running for President, you can say the kinds of things he said, but if you are the President, you’ve already had 4 years to fix things,” said Fuentes. “Why have college costs risen so much under his watch, for example? Why do we have more students in debt?”
Obama, however, shifted the speech from the economy to immigration, contrasting his support of the Dream Act, as well as his current policy to avoid deportation of Dreamers, with Romney’s past opposition on the issue.
“Your speaker from yesterday has a different view. He says when he makes a promise he will keep it. Well, when he says he will veto the Dream Act, we should keep him to his word – I’m just saying,” said Obama.
Republicans like Fuentes dismissed the President’s remarks. Fuentes said Obama should have mentioned Senator Marco Rubio, who spoke earlier at the conference and said he felt the country was nearing a ‘turning point’ on immigration.
“I think Obama is scared of Marco Rubio,” said Fuentes, arguing Obama should have pressed for Rubio’s version of the Dream Act, while acknowledging there might not have been the votes in Congress to pass it.
Today a new Latino Decisions poll found Obama gained enthusiasm among Latino voters following last Friday’s policy change on Dreamers. The poll also found Obama is favored by registered Latino voters in 5 battleground states by a fairly wide lead.
The Romney campaign announced today it was expanding its Latino “Juntos Con Romney” leadership team in 15 states. “We’ve had many Latinos reach out to us recently, especially those who had initially been working in other campaigns such as the Gingrich and Perry campaigns,” said Fuentes. “A lot of them wanted to join, so we’ve opened our doors.”