Charlotte, N.C. – On day two of the Democratic National Convention, First Lady Michelle Obama addressed the DNC Hispanic Caucus and shifted gears from her rousing speech last night. Her theme today could be summed up with one word: urgency.
“This election is going to be even closer than the last one,” said Michelle Obama as she spoke to the crowd of several hundred Latinos, adding “the election is about those battleground states.”
The First Lady then used facts and figures and even humor to get her point across that the campaign is counting on heavy volunteer and party efforts to ensure her husband’s re-election. Mrs. Obama encouraged the Hispanic Caucus members to talk to friends and neighbors, make phone calls, and even joked about “maxing out” the credit card to make a donation. Her pitch – in which she reminded Latino Democrats that some electoral districts were won in 2008 by a very small number of votes -worked.
“Today she moved me so much, especially about the urgency of swing states like Ohio,” said Vanessa Llanas, Chairman of the Latino caucus for Wisconsin and one of the state’s delegates, who used to live in Ohio. ”I know I have cousins, and friends and family, and I have to tell them face to face how important this is – I’m going to back to Ohio for at least one or two weekends in the next 60 days so I can help get out the vote.”
It wasn’t just political leaders trying to spread the message about the importance of Obama’s re-election. This morning, actress Eva Longoria spoke to several news organizations, including Telemundo, about her role as co-chair of the Obama re-election campaign. Longoria will be in the national political spotlight tomorrow night as one of the convention’s speakers. The Mexican-American actress says she was asked to speak to address two important constituencies, women and Latinos, both of which she says are best represented by Obama.
“For me, this convention crystallizes the choice between two candidates, one who believes in the American dream and wants to make sure that he is building an America where that dream is possible, and another one who doesn’t want to level the playing field and doesn’t want to play fair,” said Longoria, adding ”the question that is being posed is ‘Are you better off than you were 4 years ago,’ and for the Hispanic community, the answer is absolutely yes,” Longoria states. She said 9 million Hispanics gained insurance under the Affordable Care Act, 150 thousand more Hispanics were able to go to college through Pell Grants, and many Hispanic soldiers have been coming home after Obama ended the war in Iraq.
Longoria also lauded Obama for the deferred action for Dreamers, and said keynote speaker Julián Castro, who comes from a Mexican immigrant family, exemplified so much for her.
“I had goosebumps when he spoke – Mayor Julián Castro did not just tell his story, he told an American story,” said Longoria.
The speeches by Julián Castro and Michelle Obama last night served as inspiration for a group of Latino Democratic delegates from swing states, who were having an informal discussion on ways to disseminate their message in a tough election.
“I’ve heard people in my community say ‘I’m not feeling it’ when we talk about Obama’s campaign-but Michelle Obama’s speech brought the beautiful picture that Obama is the man for the job,” said Betsy Franceschini, an Orlando-base Hispanic outreach political director for the Democratic party in Florida, a swing state. Gary Johnson, a Latino and African-American small business owner and a delegate from Ohio, says the Democrats and the Obama campaign have to be more aggressive about what they perceive to be the administration’s achievements.
“All of these ads saying ‘Are you better off than you were 4 years ago and I’m ready to go ‘hell yes,’ I’m better off, I put my 25-year-old son on my insurance company; you can call it Obamacare if you like, but I’m better off,” Johnson said. Ohio is one of the swing states most in play, and he says he is trying to tell other business owners he benefited from Obama’s stimulus by getting government contracts, and did more hiring due to the tax credit.
Just today, though, the Romney campaign released an ad today which features a small business owner, Melanie McNamara, from right here in North Carolina – another swing state. McNamara, a manufacturer of furniture in High Point, North Carolina, says in an interview that since 2010 her business orders have gone down. ”I think it is because clients are holding back due to the uncertainty they feel, they are not doing new construction,” she says. McNamara says she voted for Obama in 2008, “but now I feel confident in Governor Romney because he knows how to build a business – he gets it.”
Matty Lazo-Chatterton, a Latina Democratic delegate from North Carolina, said to the group of Hispanic swing state Democrats that despite the tight race, she is still confident. “I predict President Obama will win North Carolina.” Tonight, former President Bill Clinton and Antonio Villaraigosa are among the speakers who will address the crowd. The convention’s final night hit a snag when weather forced the Obama campaign to cancel the final night at the Bank of America stadium, which would have accommodated over 70 thousand people, to the smaller Time Warner cable arena where the convention has been held yesterday and today. Despite the change, which will greatly reduce the amount of people present during the President’s speech, the Democrats hope their message will not be diluted.