Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Hispanic Dems warn Obama he risks losing Latinos

Original Link: http://thehill.com/leading-the-news/hispanic-dems-warn-obama-he-risks-losing-latino-voters-2008-06-11.html

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) must commit to helping illegal immigrants achieve citizenship or else risk losing the vital Latino vote in the general election, Hispanic Democratic lawmakers are warning.

If he does not promise so-called comprehensive immigration reform, the lawmakers say, the only other way to win over Hispanic supporters of his erstwhile rival, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.), may be to pick her as his running mate.

Obama’s National Latino Vote Director, Cuauhtemoc “Temo” Figueroa, will have his first meeting in Washington Thursday with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC).

They carefully avoided calling explicitly for Clinton’s selection as the party’s vice presidential nominee, but some indicated that her bond with Latino voters will get them to the polls in November, just as it drew them into the primaries.

“Hillary holds the entire Latino community in the palm of her hand,” said. Rep. José Serrano (D-N.Y.), whose district went heavily for Clinton.

But Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), Obama’s Republican opponent, is also liked by Latinos. He co-sponsored with Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) the immigration bill that the CHC is demanding, which would put the country’s 12 million illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship. And he did not buckle under pressure to abandon that position during the GOP primary.

Cecilia Munoz, the senior vice president of research, advocacy and legislation with the National Council of La Raza, said whether McCain can win over large enough numbers of Latino voters is “still an open question.”

“But Latinos are brand-loyal, and after the Clinton brand, the McCain brand is the second-strongest among Latinos because of his military service and his immigration record,” Munoz said.

CHC Chairman Rep. Joe Baca (D-Calif.) said that if Obama chooses someone other than Clinton, it will not be a deal-breaker for Latinos.

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