HEMPSTEAD, NY – Throngs of press people, student volunteers and the occasional campaign spokespeople milled about the Hofstra University campus in Hempstead, Long Island, a few miles from New York City and the scene of the much-anticipated second presidential debate. Latinos from both parties were hopeful their candidate, be he President Barack Obama or Republican candidate Mitt Romney, would deliver the goods during the town-hall debate tonight.
Latino Democrats such as New York Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez are certain President Obama will do well in substance as well as style, compared to his much more muted performance during the last debate. “President Obama will talk candidly to the American public, and will remind people in this country of where we were four years ago, with unemployment at an all-time high,” says congresswoman Velazquez. “Now unemployment is lower than it has been in years, and we are creating, not losing, jobs,” she adds.
Congresswoman Velazquez also says President Obama will “call on Mitt Romney to explain what he didn’t admit to in the first debate, which was that Romney will cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans but force the middle class to pay for them,” she says. “Also, Governor Romney cannot hide on immigration, where he has said he would veto the Dream Act and revoke the President’s deferred action plan,” says the Democratic congresswoman. Velazquez says President Obama’s increased health access for 9 million Latinos under the Affordable Care Act and his defense of a woman’s right to choose are points to be addressed.
“I also feel confident that President Obama’s charisma and empathy to working families will be evident, especially when discussing bread-and-butter issues which affect Latinos,” says Congresswoman Velazquez.
On the Republican side, Juntos con Romney co-chair Hector Barreto says he is hopeful his candidate will do well tonight. “It will be a really good opportunity for Latinos to see the contrast and the record between the two candidates,” says Barreto. “There are more Latinos living in poverty and millions of small businesses are struggling,” says Barreto.
“It is a big opportunity for us to remind Latinos and the American people [that] Mitt Romney would be different,” Barreto adds. “We get criticized a lot for not having details on issues, but I don’t see more details coming out of the other side,” he says.
Barreto says he is aware President Obama is good in town hall formats, but he says, “Mitt Romney has also spent a lot of time talking to people in town hall situations.”
Tonight’s debate will be moderated by CNN anchor Candy Crowley. It will be a town hall format, and participants who were chosen for the town hall submitted questions to Crowley, who is the only one who knows the questions in advance. The last presidential debate as well as the vice presidential debate did not touch on immigration, Latin America, and also did not touch too greatly on health care legislation, all issues Latinos have mentioned as important after jobs/economy and education.
But for both parties, the debate will be chance for the candidates to make their case to millions of television viewers a few weeks before Election Day, so the stakes are high indeed.