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Eli Kantor is a labor, employment and immigration law attorney. He has been practicing labor, employment and immigration law for more than 36 years. He has been featured in articles about labor, employment and immigration law in the L.A. Times, Business Week.com and Daily Variety. He is a regular columnist for the Daily Journal. Telephone (310)274-8216; eli@elikantorlaw.com. For more information, visit beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com and and beverlyhillsemploymentlaw.com

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Monday, March 19, 2012

For Obama-Romney, It's All About the I-4

Politico: Florida is a—perhaps the—battleground in '12. Latinos are a—perhaps the—swing bloc there.

And the I-4 corridor, with hundreds of thousands of newly-arrived Puerto Ricans (they aren't immigrants, because all of them can vote) might tell the tale in November.

That explains Mitt Romney's "open letter" to the people of Puerto Rico calling for a resolution of the statehood issue, which is more for consumption in the I-4 than it is for San Juan. (The CW is that it's intended to hit Rick Santorum, who put his foot in it over his English-only comments. That's an accurate, but peripheral point.)

The bitter irony for the island's four million American citizens is they can get presidential and congressional voting rights by hopping a plane for Orlando. And no one's more conscious of that than the Puerto Ricans in the I-4.

Romney: "I also will work to settle the Island’s 113-year political status question. Around the world, the United States has helped plant the seeds of democracy. Meanwhile, close to four million American citizens in Puerto Rico do not enjoy the same rights and privileges of democracy as their other fellow citizens. It is time to close the book on one of the great unresolved questions of American democracy. As president, I will provide the leadership and resources necessary to ensure that this century-old question gets resolved. That is my solemn pledge."

I largely avoided the topic of individual ethnicities in my "How Romney Lost Latinos" story a couple of days ago, in large part because he has fared poorly along all ethnic groups. Moreover, his wins among Hispanics in recent primaries were predicated, in large part, on small Latino turnouts, Florida's Cuban community and the expectation, among his supporters, that he will turn back into the Massachusetts moderate come the general election.

But Romney's race in Puerto Rico illustrates how he'll try to make up that ground: By narrow-casting to Hispanics who vote, and are (presumably) likely to be less sympathetic to immigrants, like Puerto Ricans in Orlando or generations-old Mexican-American families in the Southwest.

A majority aren't likely to vote for him, to be sure, but here he has a real chance to eat into Obama's commanding lead.

One major problem: The I-4 strategy isn't consistent, and is largely being overshadowed in the community by his campaign's attack on Santorum for voting in favor of Sonia Sotomayor, a heroine to most American Hispanics and an icon for Puerto Ricans.

Obama, by the way, backs a decision on Puerto Rico too. Plus he's the guy who nominated Sotomayor.

Still, as Kirk Johnson points out in today's Times, Republicans are banking on the economy as a draw to them in November. Judging from recent polls, that seems, for the moment, a longshot.

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