By Lisa Lerer
September 6, 2012
San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro predicted Barack Obama will win at least 70 percent of the Hispanic vote, describing Republican challenger Mitt Romney as “the most conservative candidate that the Latino community has ever seen.”
"Romney has alienated Latino voters with his support of “self-deportation” and his opposition to creating a path to citizenship for law-abiding immigrants who came to the U.S. as children," Castro said at a Bloomberg/Washington Post breakfast.
“He had to run so far to the right” to get the nomination, “it’s difficult to get back now,” said Castro, a Democrat who this week became the first Latino to give a keynote address at a national party convention. “It just rubbed the Hispanic community the wrong way.”
Unlike former President George W. Bush, who worked closely with the Latinos as governor of Texas, Romney was raised in Michigan and governed in Massachusetts, where he wasn’t as familiar with the community.
“I just think it’s foreign to him,” Castro said. “He doesn’t have the political nuance.”
Beyond opposition to Republican policy positions, Castro, at the breakfast in Charlotte, North Carolina, said the president has made issues important to the Latino community a priority in his administration.
Although Obama was unable to push through passage of comprehensive immigration reform, he used executive authority to implement the Dream Act, the legislation giving young immigrants the ability to become citizens. The president expanded the Pell grant tuition program for lower-income college students, allowing more Hispanics to seek higher education. And the health-care law also was critical, said Castro, for a community that lacks insurance and suffers diabetes in higher rates than the general population.
“Mitt Romney’s headwind is not the personalities, it’s the policies,” said Castro.
Both parties have been working hard to woo Latino voters, one of the country’s fastest-growing demographic groups, with Spanish-language advertising, specially crafted political messaging and Hispanic-America speakers highlighted at both conventions.
Latinos may account for 8.9 percent of the U.S. electorate in November, up from 7.4 percent in 2008, according to a report last month by the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington- based research institute. They favor Obama over Romney, 61 percent to 29 percent, according to Gallup poll data compiled Aug. 6-26, with 66 percent saying they would definitely vote.
Similar to Obama, who’s 2004 convention address laid the groundwork for his presidential victory four years later, Castro’s prime-time speech increased the political buzz about a future run for a higher office -- even the White House.
Castro shot down the speculation, saying that the dominance of the Republican party in his home state of Texas makes it more difficult for him to ascend politically.
“That’s not what I’m aiming for,” he said. “I also live in Texas.”
Although Republican dominance in the lone star state today might prohibit his political elevation, Castro said a growing Latino population and an increasingly fiscal and socially conservative Republican party in Texas could allow a Democratic victory statewide in six to eight years.
Nationally, though, the country is ready for a Latino president, he argued, saying that Obama paved the way for women and other minorities to win the highest office in the country.
“President Obama has broken barriers that will never be put back together,” he said. “He really has created a pathway for others.”
The Obama campaign officials tapped Castro to do the convention speech about a month ago. He worked with his identical twin brother, Joaquin, to write the first draft and then traded copy with campaign officials in Chicago.
“They wanted it to resonate with the American people on the American Dream story,” he said.