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Obama Boosts Outreach to Hispanic Caucus

Just two days after effectively securing the Democratic presidential nomination, Sen. Barack Obama (Ill) has already begun working to shore up one of the most glaring holes in his campaign so far -- his lack of support from Hispanic voters. And the presumptive nominee is starting his push on Capitol Hill.

On Wednesday, Obama put in a brief call to Rep. Joe Baca (D-Calif.), the chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. The two men were scheduled to have a more detailed conversation Thursday afternoon, and Baca, who like most of his Hispanic congressional colleagues had supported Clinton during the primaries, said he was ready to help.

"It's going to be my responsibility, along with many other members, to convince the Hispanic community that he represents their interests," Baca told Capitol Briefing.

It may be a tall order. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-Ill.) beat Obama among Hispanic voters by wide margins in nearly every state, capping it off with a 36-point victory in Puerto Rico this past weekend.

Baca said Obama failed to gain much Hispanic support during the primaries because "he didn't reach out." One result was that only a few members of the CHC backed his campaign. But Obama is reaching out now; not only has the senator himself called Baca, but Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Federico Pena, the former Clinton cabinet official, have also called this week seeking to get Baca on board.

So, even if all the Hispanic members (the Democratic ones, anyway) announce their support for Obama, what can the nominee do to earn the backing of Latino voters? Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) joked that Obama needed to approach the task the way an addict in a 12-step program does: "First, accept there is a problem."

"Let's not make the mistake that certainly John Kerry made in 2004, where he basically suspended his outreach to the Latino community on the idea that he was going to win them anyway," Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez and other Hispanic members specifically referenced Obama's campaign style, often marked by blockbuster events in huge venues, as an ineffective one in the Latino community.

"There needs to be a lot more retail politics, which allows the candidate to talk about specific policies that aren't easily transmitted to a 35,000-person audience," Gutierrez said.

Rep. Hilda Solis (D-Calif.), a Clinton supporter in the primaries, agreed. "It's about grassroots campaigning the old-fashioned way. It's not so much the stadium presentations," she said.

Solis said that Clinton got more than 70 percent of the vote in her district during the California primary, at least partly because her constituents simply "don't know Obama that well."

"I've always seen it not as anti-Obama but pro-Clinton and residue of goodwill toward Bill [Clinton]," said Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), who backed Obama in the primaries after initially supporting John Edwards.

Grijalva said he was concerned about "slippage" to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) by some Hispanic voters who sided with Clinton's in the Democratic primaries, especially since there was some initial enthusiasm for McCain in the Hispanic community "based on his early efforts on immigration. But he's basically repudiated those efforts as the campaign has gone on."

Baca made a similar point, arguing that McCain "flip-flopped on the issue." And Solis said that "Latino Republican surrogates" had done a good job reminding Hispanic voters about McCain's work on immigration without mentioning his evolution on the issue. Obama's campaign needs to hit McCain on immigration within the Hispanic community while also making specific pledges of his own to get something done quickly, she said.

"In the first 100 days [of an Obama presidency] there's got to be a comprehensive immigration reform plan in place," Solis said.

While immigration and the economy are major topics, Hispanic lawmakers said that domestic issues weren't the only ones of concern to their constituents. "Opposition to the [Iraq] was in the Latino community is huge," Grijalva said.

Overall, Obama has a significant amount of work to do to win support from Latinos who have been wary of his candidacy so far, but Hispanic members of Congress are cautiously optimistic that he can pull it off.

"I don't want to say it's all rosy, but we're going to work on it," Grijalva said.

By Ben Pershing  |  June 6, 2008; 5:30 AM ET
Categories:  2008 Campaign  
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Comments

To reach out to hispanic voters, Sen. Obama needs to make it clear that he will stop the inflow of illegal immigrants and will make interior enforcement against illegal immigration a priority. Hispanic voters -- citizens -- are fed up with their wages and quality of life being driven downward because they are now so often lumped together with illegal immigrants.

Posted by: Mr. Martinez | June 6, 2008 7:25 AM | Report abuse

Blacks had better recognize the facts & wake up ..Latinos are the new Blacks for Democrats politicians & they are deserting Blacks & pandering for the Latinos vote. . Obama would have a better chance of getting Independents & Republicans to vote for him than pandering for the Illegal Latino vote! We have let them Hi-Jack Blacks civil rights by equating walking across the border to the welfare office as the same as blacks struggle in slavery. Open borders and Amnesty will be the end of Blacks Civil rights and progress! Do not deceive yourself that Blacks and Latinos can make common cause because Latinos are very racist and hate blacks. As La Raza (the race) says everything for the race nothing for the rest! Check out the Racist hate organization La Raza manifesto! Then if further proof is required Google the Ethic cleansing of Blacks in LA by illegal Hispanics soon to be extended Nation wide!

Posted by: Black Saint | June 6, 2008 7:35 AM | Report abuse

Just one racist reaching out to others.

Posted by: quietpatriot | June 6, 2008 8:48 AM | Report abuse

you might want to update your talking points. the latimes has a poll out that obama is crushing mccain among hispanics:

http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/la-na-latinos6-2008jun06,0,5481180,print.story

Posted by: linda | June 6, 2008 9:08 AM | Report abuse

Now all he needs to do is find a good VP. This site holds a Vice President Poll every week, so you can see what America thinks. Just visit:

http://www.votenic.com

and help your favorite candidate choose his/her running mate. They started a VP poll last week, and the results from that poll have just been posted. This poll is honest and represents all of America.

Posted by: hill | June 6, 2008 10:40 AM | Report abuse

Illegal immigrants are helping to destroy our country. Not only have they completely ignored our laws, but they also drain our social welfare system of many billions of dollars a year.

All illegals must leave our country - NOW!!

Mississippi Makes Working with False Documents a Felony
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=90506959
Way To Go Mississippi!!!

That's the way all states should handle this. Classify all illegals as felons!!

Posted by: Buzzm1 | June 6, 2008 12:24 PM | Report abuse

There will never be another amnesty for illegal immigrants.

If Obama thinks the furor of last summer's amnesty attempt was something, he hasn't seen anything yet.

Americans are sick and tired of being walked on by illegal immigrants, and ignored by their legislators, and they (we) aren't going to take it anymore.

Stand up Americans!!

Drive the illegals out of our country!!


Posted by: Buzzm1 | June 6, 2008 12:29 PM | Report abuse

No human is illegal. Why can corporations cross borders with ease and human beings can not?

Posted by: Patty | June 6, 2008 2:29 PM | Report abuse

this hispanic won't vote for obama

Posted by: SBvoter | June 6, 2008 4:30 PM | Report abuse

Illegal Latino vote==WTF are you talking about? How are they able to vote?

Obama is ahead of mcsame in all polls.
mccain has the most disengenuous smile. it is more a grimace. it looks like a skeleton smile.

Posted by: Katerina Deligiannis | June 6, 2008 8:19 PM | Report abuse

This Latino will never never never ever
vote for Obambi, a Marxist,and racist,
flip flapper, that plays the race card
just like most blacks when is convenient.

Posted by: amurcia | June 7, 2008 4:00 AM | Report abuse

Obama used the race card? really? He didnt even talk about race until eh was forced. Even when he was asked about race specific questions, he would redirect the question and say the problem was not just for one race but all races. Yet thats playing the race card? And since when is Obama a Marxists, oh yeah he has been a marxist just like his mentor, Martin Luther King was ...riiiiiiiiiiggghht. and yes the polls suggest he is leading with Latinos. I mean how can the latins vote for the Republicans or Mccain, they have not presented many policies to them or at least havent kept their word on the promises they made. And i have a lot of Latin friends, so this hate between the two is a myth. Maybe individuals that happen to be latin or African american dont liek each other , but for the most part they get alogn as much as they do with all the other groups. People just like trying to play the race card to fuel an illusion of hostility. Its just funny how some would think a Black, a latin or a woman would more dangerous to lead the UD than an old white man or a white man in general. None of them can do any worse. Get real people

Posted by: Glenn | June 9, 2008 11:09 AM | Report abuse

Richardson would be a great VP for Obama. Knows Washington (legislative and executive) and has extensive foreign policy experience. AND he's Latino. AND from the southwest -- lots of do-able states there.

Posted by: Follitics | June 9, 2008 6:06 PM | Report abuse

What I haven't read in these comments is that Obama is Muslim, isn't a patriot, is for the North American Union, a member of CFR, is for amnesty, partial birth abortion, raising taxes while lowering wages. Vote for a patriot people, one who loves America. Not McCain either. He's for the North American Union also which will bring socialist/communist government. Bob Barr, Ron Paul and Duncan Hunter are true patriots and FOR America's sovereignty.

Posted by: sydney | June 9, 2008 10:58 PM | Report abuse

Obama will never get the Latino vote in Texas, California, New Mexico,Florida, and etc. Almost 70% of Latinos voted for Hillary, nationwide. In the Lower Rio Grande Valley voters showed up at the polls in the thousands almost all voting for Hillary. In some districts and counties she got almost 100% of the vote. Obama is a weak and disgusting candidate!! He will never get my family's votes!!

Reminder; Latinos are swing voters. In 2000 they gave the election to Bush when he ran against Gore, in Florida.

Posted by: glorialr | June 9, 2008 11:20 PM | Report abuse

I'm sure he'll do it more or less the same way all non-hispanic politicians do it - he'll speak spanish.

Of course with Barack you can be sure the pronunciation will be perfect, even if the phrase is just another grandiose platitude.

Posted by: Paul | June 10, 2008 1:16 AM | Report abuse

THE MEMBERS OF THE DEMOCRATIC HISPANIC CAUCUS ACT MORE LIKE THEY ARE PART OF THE GOVERNMENT OF MEXICO RATHER THAN THE GOVERNMEMT OF THE UNITED STATES. THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO UPHOLD THE LAWS OF THE UNITED STATES AND THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE,THEY ARE NOT LAW MAKERS THEY ARE LAW BREAKERS.

Posted by: JAY | June 13, 2008 10:55 AM | Report abuse

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