The Democrats should also emphasize their commitment to education, which Latinos consistently rate as a top concern. Consider that Latino college enrollment has soared in the last few years, according to the Pew Center, and the number of Hispanics receiving college degrees hit new highs. Democrats can contrast their positions on education – ensuring access to college, more funding for public schools – with the GOP’s focus on spending cuts. Romney’s advice to college students was “borrow money if you have to from your parents.” Ryan’s budget would slash funding for Pell Grants, which roughly 40 percent of Hispanic students rely on to attend college.
Likewise, Democrats should make a strong case for the Affordable Care Act. Gallup polling says that 40 percent of Hispanics are uninsured, the highest of any demographic. In Charlotte, the message must be loud and clear: the president wants to guarantee all Americans access to health care, while Romney has vowed to repeal “Obamacare.”
No less important is the Obama administration’s record on constitutional and civil rights. The Department of Justice has fought anti-immigrant laws in Arizona and Alabama. They have taken Sheriff Joe Arpaio to court for racial profiling, investigated Voter ID laws in South Carolina and Pennsylvania, and challenged discriminatory redistricting in Texas. Democrats need to highlight these legal battles to show that Obama is fighting for Hispanics.
This week, the Democrats have a prime opportunity to present their vision for the next four years. The big question is whether the president can mobilize Latinos to turn out at the polls. Hispanics could well be his pathway to victory; now it’s time for Obama to close the deal.
Raul A. Reyes is an attorney and member of the USA Today Board of Contributors.