Immigration Suddenly Roiling Presidential Contest
No longer a backburner issue, immigration is roiling the presidential contest as President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney seek to court the nation’s swelling Hispanic population. The outcome could influence political battle lines and shape American politics for generations.
By week’s end, both candidates will address the same Latino political convention in Florida, showcasing contrasting political ideologies at a pivotal time. The Supreme Court is about to render judgment on a get-tough Arizona law, and just last week the Democratic president announced plans to ease deportation rules for some children of illegal immigrants.
With Election Day less than five months away, Hispanic voters are energized and paying close attention, said Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, which hosts this week’s convention.
“There’s a lot at stake. We’re talking about a significant share of the American electorate that could well decide this election,” Vargas said. “It’s only now that both candidates are turning their attention to the Latino vote.”
Indeed, both sides are crafting aggressive strategies to appeal to a demographic that is by no means monolithic but has supported Democrats in recent elections. Some Republicans fear — and Democrats hope — that Obama could capitalize on this moment to help solidify Hispanic voters as predominantly Democratic this fall and for years to come, much as President Lyndon Johnson hardened the black vote for Democrats as he pushed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.