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To Turn Out Latino Voters, President Obama Should Do What Harry Reid Did in 2010

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There’s a growing consensus that Mitt Romney can’t compete for Latino votes.  Instead, the expectation is that GOP-affiliated Super PACS will run ads aimed at depressing the Latino vote.  In fact, it’s already happening in one of the battleground states: Nevada.  In another battleground, Colorado, PBS News Hour interviewed a Latina voter, Alejandra Vasquez, who summed up the situation, “Obama promised us big immigration reform, and he hasn’t followed through. But the other side attacks us. Hispanics are sitting in the middle. And we don’t know which way to go.”

This presents a challenge – and an opportunity – for the Obama campaign.

Obama Campaign Manager Jim Messina, in an interview with John Heilemann from New York magazine, explained that in order to fight back against the expected Republican onslaught, the Obama campaign intends to do what Harry Reid did, “I expect us to counter that the way Harry Reid did [in his 2010 reelection battle]—with a full discussion of the issues and a huge ground game.”

What happened in 2010 in Nevada is a good model for 2012.  But, Harry Reid didn’t just have a “full discussion of the issues.” He showed leadership. During the summer of 2010, Reid made a commitment to bring the DREAM Act to a vote. And, Reid kept his promise by bringing DREAM to the Senate floor in September (when Republicans blocked it), and securing a floor vote in December of 2010.  That action had an almost immediate impact according to polling by Latino Decisions:

The latest data from the Latino Decisions tracking poll shows 77.5% of Latino registered voters support the DREAM Act amendment, versus just 11.5% who oppose. The new data come from updated tracking poll interviews collected September 17-23, 2010, the week during which the DREAM Act amendment faced a procedural vote in the Senate. At the same time, the Democrats saw a favorable turn in perceptions that they were working on immigration reform. Last week, our data indicated 61.1% of Latinos felt Democrats were either ignoring or blocking immigration reform; which dropped to 53.8% this week. Likewise, the percent who thought Dems were actively working on passing reform went up from 25.7% to 30.8% in one week.

Reid continued to reiterate that promise throughout his 2010 campaign.  In fact, the contrast between Reid and his challenger Sharron Angle’s approach to immigration was a major reason that Latino voters favored Reid by the whopping margin 90-8%.  In October 2011, Senate Majority Leader Reid attributed his victory to this support, saying, “I would not be the majority leader in the United States Senate today, but for the Hispanics in Nevada.”

But, it took some bold action – and leadership – to ensure that Latino voters had a reason to turn out at high levels.  Latino voters are waiting for that kind of promised leadership from President Obama.  Last year, 22 U.S. Senators, including Reid and two other beneficiaries of 2010 Latino turnout,  Michael Bennet (CO) and Barbara Boxer (CA), urged the President to use his authority to protect DREAMers. President Obama should follow their advice.

Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice said, “Now is the perfect time for President Obama to use his Executive power to provide relief for DREAMers.  Republicans are going to spend millions on Spanish-language TV to remind Latino voters that the President has not delivered on his promise of immigration reform (ignoring the role of Republican Party leaders in blocking reform).  But, the President should take up this challenge and provide relief for DREAMers. This action will rebut the GOP attack and generate much needed enthusiasm among a key constituency.  And, if Mitt Romney and his anti-immigrant advisors, Kris Kobach, Lamar Smith, and Steve King, want to challenge relief for DREAMers, so be it.  Their reaction will send also message to Latino voters.”

America’s Voice – Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform.