Obama, Romney in Latino Vote Tug of War

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LAS VEGAS -- For GOP presumptive nominee Mitt Romney to win the White House, he will need help from the Latino community.

That's a tall order because most polls show Hispanic voters are solidly in President Barack Obama's corner.

Some 50 million Latinos add up to 16 percent of the country. By the year 2050, that number is expected to be 29 percent.

Both campaigns are in hot pursuit of this key voting bloc.

Romney's ads showcase his Mexican-born father, but polls show it will take more than a family connection to overcome Obama's edge.

Romney's tough stance on illegal immigration isn't making it any easier. Conservative Hispanic evangelical leaders like the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez are urging Romney to moderate his language on the issue.

"If a candidate emerges that is buying into the hyperbole and the rhetoric that is anti-immigrant or anti-immigration, that candidate is going to have a difficult time climbing up the proverbial Latino hill," explained Rodriguez, who is president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.

"Good luck. Buenos suerte. You're gonna need it," he added.

Groups supporting President Obama are using ads to paint Romney in a negative light.

Many of those ads target key swing states with larger Hispanic populations like Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Virginia, Arizona, and Florida. If the strategy generates heavy Hispanic turnout, it should help Obama's re-election chances.

Romney's main message to Hispanics is all about the economy.

Labor statistics show that under Obama, Hispanics or Latino workers make up 20 percent of all unemployed Americans. They also account for nearly 30 percent of all Americans living in poverty.

"We need conservative leadership. That's the message," said Elsa Barnhill, Nevada director of the GOP's Hispanic outreach.

"The current leadership has obviously not been effective," she added. "Not only is our economy suffering, especially in the Hispanic community and overall as well, but we need conservative leadership that's going to cut spending, that's going to create jobs, and keep its promises primarily."

Meanwhile, the Obama campaign is working hard to register more Hispanics to vote.

"We share a lot of the same issues, and he's very much one of us," one Latino Obama supporter said. "He is the son of an immigrant, he's a person of color, and he doesn't come from a rich background with a silver spoon in his mouth. He's definitely fought his way to where he is."

And the fight will continue as the Obama campaign tries to make the case that Romney is the mean-spirited, anti-immigrant candidate.

Meanwhile, Romney hopes Hispanics will buy into his economic message of upward mobility.

Whatever happens in 2012, the Hispanic community will become even more important in the future of American politics.

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