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Live Blogging Barack Obama's Address to Latino Leaders

by Wes Messamore, published

With CSPAN on in the background waiting for President Obama's address to NALEO this afternoon, which I will be live-blogging here, so keep refreshing this page over the next hour, here is one ABC News article I'm reading, which points out that the promises Obama made to this same group four years ago are all still works in progress:

The change Obama promised NALEO and Latinos was at once sweeping and bold, from "ending the housing crisis" to creating "millions of new jobs" and expanding minority enrollment in health insurance plans. He called immigration reform "a priority I will pursue from my very first day." Now at a critical juncture in his bid for a second term, Obama returns to the group with many of those goals still works in progress, a source of frustration and disillusionment for some of his ardent Latino supporters. He'll make the case that the country is moving forward despite an uncooperative GOP, and that he needs more time. The collapse of the housing market and a foreclosure wave continues to hit Latino homeowners disproportionately hard, studies find, with market recovery still struggling to take hold. On health care, roughly three times as many Latinos are uninsured than are non-Hispanic whites. And Latino unemployment is on the rise, at 11 percent in May, up from 10.3 percent in April and March, according to the Labor Department, which is higher than the national average. "Latinos in our polling have told us they feel Hispanics have been hit harder than other groups by the recession, and many Latinos say that the recession has hit them hardest when it comes to unemployment, home ownership and their neighborhoods," said Mark Hugo Lopez, an associate director at the Pew Hispanic Center.

So the question is: Why should Latino leaders listen too closely now?

UPDATE (9:08am PT) - After Florida Gov. Rick Scott wrapped up his remarks (which can be summarized as: "Florida rules! Go Florida!" ), the MC got on stage to announce that the audience needs to finish eating quickly so their forks can be collected before Obama speaks, per the instructions of the Secret Service. Does anyone know, is that usual?

UPDATE (9:16am PT) - While we wait on the president's address, here are two links worth reviewing: Yesterday's live blog of Mitt Romney's address to the same group, and this morning's feature article on third party presidential candidate Gary Johnson, how his views on immigration are being excluded from this week's national conversation even though he is imminently credible as a two term governor of a border state, and what his views on immigration policy are in his own words.

UPDATE (9:35am PT) - Why is the Latino / Hispanic vote getting so much attention this election? Because it's growing in number and influence, especially in swing states, where The Hill reports that "Hispanic populations are soaring." More details:

States traditionally seen as dominated by white working-class voters have seen Hispanic populations explode in recent years. Pennsylvania’s Hispanic population grew 83 percent between 2000 and 2010; Iowa’s increased by 83.7 percent; Virginia’s increased 92 percent; North Carolina’s increased by 111 percent; Ohio’s increased by 63 percent; New Hampshire’s increased by 79 percent; and Iowa’s grew by 84 percent, according to U.S. Census data. As a percentage of the total population, these Hispanic voting blocs are not proportionally equal to Nevada or Florida, but they are fast becoming more significant. Clarissa Martinez-De-Castro, director of civic engagement and immigration at the National Council of La Raza, noted that Hispanic voter participation exceeded the margin of Obama’s victory in Indiana and North Carolina, two traditional Republican strongholds, in 2008. In Pennsylvania, Hispanics make up nearly 6 percent of the total population, while in Virginia they account for nearly 8 percent; in North Carolina it’s 8.4 percent; in Iowa, 5 percent; in Ohio, 3.1 percent; and in New Hampshire, nearly 3 percent. “It will have a significant impact in a very close election,” said Manuel Pastor, professor of American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California.

This is bad news for Mitt Romney, who is trailing Obama among Latino voters in battleground states according to a recent poll.

UPDATE (9:53am PT) - Okay that was a long intermission. CSPAN even cut its feed. CNN just played audio-less feed of people moving around the conference room and talking. But CSPAN's feed is back and music is playing. Looks like Obama's speech is coming up here shortly. Standby...

UPDATE (10:09am PT) - Now CSPAN's feed is showing a helicopter bearing the presidential seal landing. Obama just came out. As the camera shows him walking, I can hear microphones in the conference room picking up cheers. He then went up a ramp into a plane and came out a minute later. Now he's shaking hands with people by his landing zone outside the conference. Looks like it's still going to be a minute before he speaks. Keep sitting tight, and if you haven't already, review some of the links and information above.

UPDATE (10:33am PT) - Okay, now the show is getting started. The long line of introducers, of introducers, of introducers ad nauseam that precedes a major speaker like this has begun. Before Romney's speech yesterday, this took like twenty minutes, if memory serves me. Since President Obama's a little bigger of a figure than Gov. Romney, maybe today's will take closer to thirty minutes.

UPDATE (10:50am PT) - Obama leads in with a reference to Mitt Romney, noting that yesterday "your featured speaker" said that November isn't about parties or politicians, but about the future of America. Obama said he agrees and that what makes America great is that whoever you are and however you got here, "You can make it if you try." It's a country of dreamers, strivers, and risk-takers, "not people looking for a handout, but climbers and entrepreneurs, the hardest-working people on earth," Obama says, and immigrants exemplify those great things about America. All we expect, Obama says, is that all the hard work Americans do pays off.

UPDATE (10:50am PT) - Obama says the question is, "How are we going to fix the economy?" and segues into a litany of things he's done for Latinos as president: Pell Grants that have helped Latino students, improving standards for education, cutting taxes for Latino small businesses 18 times, extending credit to keep them afloat in these tough times, making health care available and affordable for every American, a reference to Obama's signature health care reform that is currently facing a challenge in the Supreme Court. Three times in a row, Obama emphatically says: "That was the right thing to do."

UPDATE (11:08am PT) - Following the obligatory litany of things he and his party have delivered, cue the obligatory litany of promises and things they're going to deliver if reelected, plus why Latino voters won't get those things if they vote for the Republican candidates this November. When Obama mentioned the Dream Act, and said it should have been passed a long time ago, but was blocked by the Republicans in Congress, he received the most thundering applause of either his or Romney's speeches so far. Connecting this to his recent directive not to enforce deportation against some 800,000 - 1M undocumented students, Obama said of the recent move more than once: "It was the right thing to do." At one point, he asked the crowd, "Wasn't that the right thing to do?" Audible yeses could be heard.

This is clearly the motif and key message of Obama's speech today, and I wonder to what extent we'll see it in his campaign the rest of this year. It boils down to: Sure the economy isn't perfect, yes we have a long way to go, yes we're working on solutions (by the way, the GOP is obstructing us every step of the way). But the most important thing is that for the last four years, Democrats have done the right thing and for the next four we'll continue to do the right thing. That's what matters most. That's why you should vote for us.

The president concluded his address by slipping in his trademark slogan "Yes We Can," in Spanish.

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