Democrats Paint Romney as Extreme Toward Latinos

Party strategists aim to undermine GOP convention with "counter programming."

By + More

TAMPA--A primary line of Democratic attack against Mitt Romney this week and throughout the fall campaign will be that he is the "most extreme" anti-Latino presidential candidate in many years. It's a charge that President Obama's strategists hope will undermine Romney's position in battleground states where Latinos could make the difference, such as Colorado, Florida, Nevada, New Mexico, and Virginia.

Gabriela Domenzain, a key strategist on Hispanic issues for Obama's re-election campaign, tells me that Romney has not pulled back from the "extreme" policies toward Hispanics that he adopted during his fight for the nomination as he appealed to the most conservative factions in the Republican party. This will be now used against him across the country, she says.

Domenzain notes that Obama's campaign will emphasize Romney's opposition to the president's health-care law known as "Obamacare," which she says has extended health insurance to millions of Hispanics. Other points of criticism will be Romney's support for very tough state laws to control illegal immigration, and his opposition to allowing some immigrants, who entered the United States illegally with their parents, to gain legal status.

In addition, Domenzain says Obama will promote his goal of increasing federal aid for education, which is popular in Latino families.

Obama's advisers also want to tie Romney as tightly as possible to the budget developed by Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, his vice-presidential running mate and chairman of the House Budget Committee. That budget would cut many programs valued by Hispanics, Domenzain tells me.

Republicans say Latinos have been disproportionately hurt by the poor economy, such as the high rate of unemployment, and in the end they won't back Obama as they did in 2008.

But Domenzain argues that Republicans will pay a big price for their harsh policies toward Latinos, and many of their ideas such as cutting taxes on the rich would make the economy worse. She says the Democrats will use their high-tech and micro-targeting experts and an extensive field army to make their case to Latinos in a vast "ground game" devoted to Romney's defeat.

Obama has a huge lead over Romney among Latinos, with 63 per cent supporting the president and 28 per cent backing Romney, according to the latest poll by NBC News/the Wall Street Journal and Telemundo.

Romney aides are aiming to garner at least 38 per cent of the Latino vote.

I interviewed Donenzain Saturday evening at a Democratic party/Obama campaign office set up in Tampa this week to "counter program" the Republican National Convention down the street. She and other Democratic leaders, including party chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, plan a series of events to gain publicity for Obama and the Democrats during the GOP gathering.

Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog, "Ken Walsh's Washington," and is the author of "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He can be reached at kwalsh@usnews.com and on Facebook and Twitter.