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Obama The Favorite At Latino Leaders Convention


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Robert Siegel. More than 12 million Latino Americans are expected to cast votes in November. That would be a big jump from the less than 10 million who did so in the last presidential contest four years ago. President Obama and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, both have their eyes on those votes, and both spoke to a convention of Latino politicians in Florida this week, making their case. As NPR's Scott Horsley reports, there was no question who got the warmer reception.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Polls show President Obama enjoys a big advantage with Hispanic voters and he tried to build on that today, telling a national gathering of Latino politicians about his efforts to boost grants for college students, cut taxes for small business owners, and extend health insurance to nearly all Americans.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: There will always be plenty of stubborn opposition in the way that says no, you can't; no, you shouldn't; don't even try. But America was built by people who said something different, who said yes, we can; who said, si, se puede. And as long as I have the privilege of being your president, I will be alongside you fighting for the country that we together dream of.

HORSLEY: The sustained ovation for Mr. Obama overwhelmed the polite applause that greeted Mitt Romney yesterday. Mr. Obama reinforced his support among Latinos with his announcement a week ago that his administration will stop deporting illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. Instead, these young people will be allowed to stay in the country legally for at least two years and will also be eligible for work permits.

OBAMA: And I refused to keep looking young people in the eye, deserving young people in the eye, and tell them, tough luck, the politics is too hard.

HORSLEY: Mr. Obama resorted to executive action after congressional Republicans filibustered the so-called DREAM Act, which was designed to give young illegal immigrants who grew up here a path to citizenship. Romney has criticized the president's action as a mere temporary stop-gap. Mr. Obama pushed back at his rival today.

OBAMA: In his speech he said that when he makes a promise to you, he'll keep it. Well, he has promised to veto the DREAM Act, and we should take him at his word.

HORSLEY: Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida spoke shortly before the president. Like Romney, Rubio accused Mr. Obama of playing politics with the Latino vote.

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO: I was tempted to come here and tell you, hey, he hasn't been here in three years. What a coincidence, it's an election year.

HORSLEY: Rubio acknowledged that immigration is complicated and he warned people on the right and the left both try to oversimplify the issue for political gain.

RUBIO: As long as this issue of immigration is a political ping-pong that each side uses to win elections and influence votes, I'm telling you, it won't get solved.

HORSLEY: Mr. Obama insists he's ready to work with lawmakers on a permanent immigration fix. But in the meantime, he says, halting deportations of young people was the right thing to do, and for this audience of Latino leaders, at least, it was also the right message to send. Scott Horsley, NPR News, Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.