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Obama, GOP already sparring over Colorado Hispanic vote

10:08 PM, Jan 27, 2012   |    comments
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President Barack Obama did some work on that front during his Thursday visit to Buckley Air Force Base.

The president gave only one interview to a local media outlet, Spanish-language television channel Telemundo Denver, which is a 9NEWS partner.

Anchor Maria Rozman asked Obama about immigration, which remains a hot-button issue in the Hispanic community.

"Ultimately the only way we're going to solve this [immigration] problem is by changing the law," Obama said. "I can't do that by myself. I need Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform."

Later in the Telemundo interview, the president turned his focus to the economy.

"I think the Latino community in this country voted for me not because of immigration reform but also because of their desire to see an economy that is working better for all people," Obama said.

Colorado isn't the only place where the president targeted Spanish-language media.

He did the same thing with the Telemundo station in Las Vegas earlier on Thursday and also gave an exclusive interview to national network Univision.

Political watchers say this strategy so early in the election cycle shows that the president sees a potential problem motivating Latinos to the polls in November.

It's an important demographic to Democrats. Obama won two-thirds of the Hispanic vote in 2008.

"There are certain key states in which it is enormously important for [the president] to get the Hispanic vote and make sure that vote turns out," Metro State College Political Scientist Norman Provizer said.

That's why Republicans are already fighting on this front in Colorado. Hispanic Republicans held a news conference ahead of the president's visit, going after Obama on the economy.

Half of Latino voters consider that to be one of the biggest issues right now, according to a recent poll.

That's more than immigration, which remains a close second.

"Why is the only job he cares about his own?" asked Madelaine Rohan, who heads the Colorado Hispanic Republicans. "With Hispanics facing an unemployment rate two points higher than the average and in the case of Colorado five points higher than average, we are tired of President Obama's failed economic policies."

The president's supporters in the Latino community say that argument is going to be a tough sell.

"Two-thirds also believe under Obama for the next year they'll be in a better economic position than they are right now," Obama supporter James Mejia said. "There's a lot of optimism and hope in the Latino community that will carry over for the next year."

Experts don't think any of the Republican candidates can win a majority of Hispanic voters, but they don't have to.

If the GOP can whittle down the president's 61 percent of Colorado's Hispanic vote from 2008 a few percentage points, it could be enough to turn the state's nine electoral votes over to the Republican nominee.

(KUSA-TV © 2012 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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