Mitt Romney, GOP Reach Out to Hispanics

Romney, Republicans attempt to woo Latino voters.

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GOP presidential front-runner Mitt Romney and the Republican National Committee have recently launched efforts to woo Hispanic voters, though Democrats have decried the moves as merely lip-service.

Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, released a Spanish-language advertisement on Wednesday highlighting job creation and national security. Also on Wednesday, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus announced an expanded effort to reach out to Latinos and named Bettina Inclan to lead the charge. Inclan is a communications and political strategist who worked for Ariz. Senator John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign.

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In a conference call about the announcement, Priebus said social media would also play a role in outreach efforts.

"We're also unveiling our new @RNCLatinos Twitter account and RNC Latinos Tumblr blog, so that Latinos across the country will be able to get the latest bilingual content, videos and the great research that's been coming out of the RNC," he said. "The Twitter and Tumblr accounts join the existing bilingual website at RNCLatinos.com. Through these platforms, it's our hope that Latinos across the nation will be able to partake in the conversation like never before."

Democrats immediately mocked the efforts.

Romney has staked out a firm position on immigration policy that would call for the removal of all illegal immigrants in the United States before they could apply for citizenship and has promised to veto the DREAM act, a proposal that would grant children of illegal immigrants that were brought to the United States by their parents a path to citizenship. He also announced Wednesday that Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach had endorsed his candidacy. Kobach helped draft the recently passed and controversial immigration laws in Arizona and Alabama.

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"With Kris on the team, I look forward to working with him to take forceful steps to curtail illegal immigration and to support states like South Carolina and Arizona that are stepping forward to address this problem," Romney said in the endorsement release.

Rep. Xavier Becerra, a California Democrat and former chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, derided Romney's attempts to make in-roads with Latinos in an interview with Univision News.

"He's right that he has to attract Latino voters at the polls. He's wrong in that every time he says something, he does anything but attract Latinos to his candidacy," Becerra said. "If Romney was serious about trying to recruit Latinos to vote for him, he wouldn't be saying the things that, actually, a lot of Americans don't care for."

The Democratic National Committee forwarded to reporters a press release by Somos Republicans, an Arizona-based grassroots group, that called for Florida Latino Republicans to denounce Romney based on the Kobach endorsement.

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"We didn't support deporting Elian Gonzalez, and we are asking all Latino Republicans in Florida to stop supporting the GOP Presidential candidate who wants to deport our 'Elian Gonzalez equivalents.'"

There are about 50 million Hispanics in the United States, making up about 16 percent of the population. Experts have said they will play an increasingly larger role in presidential elections as their population and participation grows.

In the past, Republican presidential candidates have tried to appeal to Hispanic voters on religious and conservative values issues; the most successful was President George W. Bush, a former Texas governor.

Email: rmetzler@usnews.com

Twitter: @rebekahmetzler