White House Cheat Sheet: Obama's Latino Courtship
Today's Spanish-language town hall meeting hosted by Labor Secretary Hilda Solis is the latest evidence of the White House's active courtship of Latinos -- the nation's largest minority group and a (still) sleeping giant in electoral politics.
The town hall, which will be anchored by Univision's Edna Schmidt and will focus on the swine flu outbreak, is being billed by the White House as "an unprecedented effort to engage our nation's largest minority group."
Luis Miranda, director of Hispanic media for the White House, said outreach to Latinos has been a "priority" for Obama.
The town hall comes several weeks after Obama traveled to Trinidad & Tobago to attend the Summit of the Americas -- a major geopolitical event in the Spanish speaking world -- and staged the first bilingual press briefing in White House history. Obama has also granted one-on-one interviews to Univision anchors Maria Elena Salinas and Jorge Ramos in the days since being elected president.
The biggest test of Obama's commitment to the Latino community, however, may well come over the next few months as he chooses the next Supreme Court justice and decides how hard to push a comprehensive immigration reform proposal -- both issues of critical importance to the Hispanic community.
"So far so good, said Gil Meneses, a Democratic consultant, of the Obama administration's effort at Latino outreach. "All eyes on immigration reform and of course, [Supreme Court] nominee. That will be a milestone for Latino community"
Already a number of Latino legal groups have been making the case for Obama to make history by naming the first Hispanic American to the Supreme Court, filling an opening caused by Justice David Souter's retirement from the bench.
"I can think of no better moment for him to nominate the Supreme Court's first Hispanic and someone who will uphold our Constitution's promise of equal justice and freedom for all," said Henry Solano, president and general counsel of the Mexican America Legal Defense & Education Fund (MALDEF).
Several Hispanics appear to be under active consideration including 2nd District Court of Appeals judge Sonia Sotomayor who isregarded by many as the current frontrunner for the nomination.
As for immigration reform, there are conflicting reports of how high a priority it is for the president.
The New York Times reported in April that Obama was ready to put his political capital behind efforts to overhaul the immigration system but White House aides cautioned that nothing had changed from the president's initial stance that immigration reform was one of a handful of priorities for the administration.
Immigration reform is a dicey political issue as it is of tremendous importance to the Latino community but is viewed far more skeptically by non-Hispanic voters -- particularly those living in Rust Belt states where the loss of blue-collar jobs is blamed -- broadly -- on America's immigration policies. (The Post's E.J. Dionne wrote a terrific column on the political perils of immigration reform earlier this week.)
What is beyond dispute is that the Latino vote is a critical piece of both parties' electoral math in future national elections.
In 2004 then President George W. Bush stunned the political world by winning 44 percent of the Hispanic vote, repeating the successes he had demonstrated in courting this community as the governor of Texas.
Four years later, however, President Obama crushed Sen. John McCain among Hispanics -- 67 percent to 31 percent -- despite the fact that Obama had struggled to win over Latino voters during his prolonged primary fight against then Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Obama is working to consolidate his demonstrated strength in the Hispanic community in advance of his 2012 reelection race. But, how he handles his Supreme Court nominee and immigration reform will do much to inform how he -- and Democrats more generally -- are perceived in Latino circles in coming years.
What To Watch For:
Friday's Fix Picks: Let the official stalking of Connie Britton and Kyle Chandler begin!
1. Stress Tests 101.
2. Nancy Pelosi knew about harsh interrogations back in 2002.
3. A look at the lopsided world of outside groups through the lens of the Supreme Court fight.
4. Manny being Manny.
5. Twitter is not for sale.
Perry Polling Suggests Tight Race: An internal poll conducted for Gov. Rick Perry and obtained by the Fix shows him trailing Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in a hypothetical 2010 primary race but provides other evidence that seems to suggest voters would rather the senator stay in Washington. Hutchison led Perry 45 percent to 39 percent in the Baselice & Associates survey but showed strong opposition (89 percent) to the bank bailout that Hutchison voted for last year. And, fully two-thirds of those Republicans polled said they would prefer Hutchison stay in the Senate and "keep her seniority" while just 23 percent said they preferred to see her return to Texas to run for governor. The aim of the poll is relatively clear -- to show Hutchison that a clear blueprint exists to beat her and that she would be better off staying in the Senate. Every indication we have, however, is that KBH is committed to running for governor in 2010 and, therefore, it's unlikely that any poll -- particularly one in which she is ahead -- will dissuade her.
Space For Fisher: On the heels of new polling showing him beating former representative Rob Portman (R) by double digits, Lt Gov. Lee Fisher (D) secured the endorsement of Rep. Zack Space (D) for his Senate campaign. "I know that as our next U.S. Senator, [Fisher] will continue to be a leader on behalf of all Ohioans," said Space about his decision to back Fisher. Space has -- somewhat surprisingly -- emerged as a Democratic power broker in Ohio since his election to the House in 2006 and was mentioned as a potential Senate candidate in his own right earlier this year. Fisher is headed toward a primary fight with Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner among others. Portman has cleared the Republican field for himself.
Gitcho to RNC: Gail Gitcho, who has been handling press for former Minnesota senator Norm Coleman during that state's interminably long election contest, has been hired as the new press secretary at the Republican National Committee. Gitcho, who like many of the Fix in-laws grew up in San Antonio, spent the early days of the 2008 cycle as press operative for former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney's presidential campaign before serving as Mid-Atlantic regional communications director for Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) in the general election. "I am looking forward to working for Chairman Steele and the RNC committee members to advance the Republican message and work to win the upcoming elections," said Gitcho.
Close Up at the Correspondents Dinner: Want an up close and personal view of tomorrow night's White House Correspondents Association Dinner but don't have a ticket? Well, there's always C-SPAN (the Fix's favorite network), which will be broadcasting the entire show starting at 8 p.m. ET. C-SPAN is also offering a live video stream on their Web site -- starting at 6 p.m. -- of the Red Carpet arrivals! (No, the Fix will not be one of them. We are more of a "slip in the side door" type.) Want EVEN MORE on the Correspondents Dinner? The Fix will be twittering -- whenever the spotty cell coverage in the ballroom at the Hilton allows it -- at "@TheFix." Sign up to follow us today! Before it's too late!
Say What?: "We didn't act like we all are each other's buddies. We didn't act like we're going to hang out tonight and have dinner." -- Rev. Al Sharpton on his meeting with President Obama, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) in an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer.
May 8, 2009; 5:32 AM ET
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