President Barack Obama, addressing the packed Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo/AP Images )

After convention, Latino Democrats gear up for tight stretch run

Charlotte, N.C. – It is (finally) a sunny day in Charlotte, and as scores of Latino delegates get ready to go back home, they say they are energized by the speeches and ready to get to work.

“I think Obama did extremely well in defining what the choices are,” says Richard Romero, an Ohio Democratic delegate who also heads the state’s Latino Affairs Commission.  “We’re planning to go out there and say this election is not about two people running – it’s about our families, and Obama is providing more opportunities and doing what’s best for people,” Romero adds.

But President Obama and the Democrats did not have much time to bask in the enthusiastic reception and the roaring crowds seen in the convention’s final night. This morning’s news of lower-than-expected jobs numbers immediately drew reaction from Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, who said today on CNBC, “This is not what a recovery looks like – I would argue this is the result of failed leadership in Washington,” he remarked.

The battle for votes will center primarily in certain battleground states, Ohio being one of them.  Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s son Craig, who speaks Spanish, is in Ohio this weekend talking to voters.  The Romney campaign has also announced an extensive ad buy in key states.

Despite the economic numbers today, Romero says he is confident the Obama campaign’s convention message will resonate for Ohio Latinos. “Obama’s deferred action policy has really awakened the Latino community, and having Julián Castro as the keynote speaker really sent a message that Democrats see Latinos as the future of the U.S.,” says Romero. “I think we have the campaign ready to go out there.”

Florida is another battleground state, and both parties are battling for the growing numbers of Latinos in the state.  President Obama is visiting Orlando this weekend, and Obama for America campaign co-chair Lynnette Acosta, who is based in Orlando, says the campaign is ready to continue making their pitch to Hispanic voters ahead of November.

“In Florida we have almost 40 campaign offices, and in Orlando alone we have 5 or 6,” says Acosta. “We have tons of hard-working volunteers, and we focus on reaching Latinos through grasroots efforts – town halls, meetings and calls.”  Acosta believes that ideologically, the majority of Hispanics in her region lean Democrat, but she worries about getting them to vote.  “Many Puerto Ricans who are recent arrivals from the island, for example, are not involved in the voting process, so we are focusing many of our efforts on that,” she says.

As the Democrats leave the convention, they face a tight election race with the Republicans. Political scientist Sylvia Manzano says today’s jobs report might not necessarily be a negative among some Hispanic voters who still favor the Democrats’ support of health care and other programs, and oppose the Republican budget proposals to cut them.  Manzano also says the fact that Democrats “doubled down” on their support for the Dream Act, immigration reform, and their support for abortion rights and gay marriage may be a plus for voters who feel the party is more inclusive than the Republican party.

Still, says Manzano, “it’s the enthusiasm gap Democrats have to be concerned with,” she says. “In the end, it’s about bringing them to the polls on election day.”

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