President Barack Obama waves as he walks on stage during campaign stop on the campus of the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colo., on Sunday, Sept. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Opinion: At the DNC, Obama needs to energize Hispanics

Amid a cascade of red, white, and blue balloons, the Republican National Convention concluded with Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan basking in the adulation of delegates from around the country.  Despite the threat of Hurricane Isaac, the GOP staged a successful convention, and now it’s the Democrats’ turn.
They gather this week in Charlotte, North Carolina to nominate President Obama for a second term. Given Obama’s strong support among Latinos, it is no surprise that Hispanics have prominent roles at the Democratic National Convention.  Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa will open the gathering, and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro will give the keynote address.  Yet Obama needs to energize Hispanics, who lag behind other groups in voting.  Here’s a checklist for how the Democratic convention can fire up Latino voters.Job One is to rebut the lies.  Aside from Clint Eastwood’s bizarre appearance, the most memorable moment of the Republican convention was Paul Ryan energetically attacking the failures of the Obama administration.  However, it was a speech that The Washington Post called “not very truthful,” while the Los Angeles Times noted that he “bent or ignored the record” on a host of issues.  Even Fox News called out Ryan’s “blatant lies and misrepresentations.” The Democrats need to set the record straight.  Obama has not raised taxes on the middle class, nor has he gutted the work requirement of welfare, to name just two of Ryan’s claims.  Democrats must push back hard with the facts.Next, the speakers must focus on the president’s accomplishments, from the historic nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court to his new deferred action policy for young undocumented immigrants.  At the RNC, Governor Susana Martinez (R-NM) and Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) both gave stirring, engaging speeches.  The only problem was that their speeches were mostly about themselves.  They concentrated on their own biographies, and Romney’s candidacy seemed secondary.  The Latino speakers at the Democratic National Convention, who include Congressman Xavier Becerra (D-CA) and actress Eva Longoria, should remember that their job is to help re-elect the president.  Instead of taking a star turn, they need to reiterate their confidence in President Obama.

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.

Opinion:  At the DNC, Obama needs to energize Hispanics raulreyescrop politics NBC Latino News

Raul A. Reyes is an attorney and member of the USA Today Board of Contributors.

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