Certainly, many Hispanic voters will be exposed to Romney’s English-language ads. But media experts say penetrating the Hispanic market demands targeted advertising. Romney aired Spanish-language ads before the Florida primary that featured Cuban-American members of Congress from Miami touting Romney’s economic agenda and opposition to Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez. He dominated the Hispanic vote, drawing 54 percent, and handily won the Jan. 31 primary.
“I don’t have any insight into our future spending plans on Hispanic media, but I know this: Hispanic Americans, like all Americans, are worried about jobs,’’ Gutierrez said in an interview Friday with National Journal. “They want a growing economy and prosperity, and it’s very obvious this president can’t do that.’’
Gutierrez was a leading supporter of the Bush administration’s efforts to pass comprehensive immigration reform. Romney seemed to support the legislation at the time, but he has decried allowing undocumented workers to earn legal status as “amnesty’’ since he began running for president in 2007. “The answer is self-deportation,’’ Romney said in a debate shortly before the Florida primary vote.
Asked about their differences on immigration policy, Gutierrez said that polls show the economy and education are more pressing concerns for Hispanic voters.
“I think what Hispanics resent is the language, the insinuations and the sense that people may not respect them. They will not have that problem with Gov. Romney,’’ Gutierrez said. “The governor wants to review our legal immigration system and he understands its importance for long-term competitiveness. He’s looking at it strategically. Obama is looking at it tactically and politically.’’
The Obama campaign responded to Romney's announcement of his Hispanic steering committee with a statement calling him "the most extreme presidential candidate we've seen on immigration.'' Obama supporters are also pointing this week to the latest Latino Decisions poll, which found strong support for Dream Act legislation that would offer citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants who attend college or enter the military. Obama backs the legislation; Romney doesn’t.
But the downturn in Hispanic unemployment will undoubtedly complicate Obama's outreach, and it comes at a time of mounting criticism of his failure to pass immigration reform and his administration’s aggressive deportation policies. Supporters of the Dream Act are also urging the president to award temporary legal status to these young people so they could apply for work permits and drivers licenses.
Several Hispanic community leaders are scheduled to hold a press conference on Monday that calls the administration's efforts to moderate its harsh deportation policies "a failure.''
"We've been disappointed that the president didn't make immigration a higher priority during his first years in office,'' said Frank Sharry, executive director of America's Voice. "We applauded his efforts to make sure ordinary immigrants without papers aren't caught up in the deportation mill, but one year later, the policy has not made things better and in some ways made it worse.''
With immigration advocates firing hard at both Obama and Romney, the Hispanic vote can't be taken for granted by either side.