Barack Obama gives rival Mitt Romney mountain to climb for Hispanic vote

The President still holds sway over a key demographic

Denver

Everything that matters in this election comes together in the rising plains and soaring peaks of Colorado, a state where voters divide equally by registration between Republicans, Democrats and independents, where the Hispanic population is growing, where early voting has started and where the candidates are neck and neck.

It is why, when Barack Obama addressed a crowd of 16,000 in City Park in Denver late on Wednesday, he promised, "You will be seeing me again," before election day. It is also why, when Mitt Romney packed the Red Rocks amphitheatre near here the day before, a Latino family was placed right behind him on the stage holding "Democrats for Romney" signs. "I love that, I love that," the Governor cried.

Colorado also offers a mirror to where Mr Obama finds himself today. Even though this state had only voted once for a Democrat for the White House since 1968, four years ago Mr Obama won it by a nine points after building a commanding coalition of independents. Yet now, it is a toss-up.

"The President is doing everything he needs to do," Wellington Webb, a former Denver mayor and a giant in Democratic politics here, told The Independent. "It's on the rest of us now to make sure we get the vote out. It's game time." He called Mr Romney unpredictable and weak on what matters to women, "and he's not speaking to the issues of the Hispanic community".

Keeping Hispanics in his camp here and in all the other battleground states – and generating sufficient enthusiasm that they vote – is one of the key challenges of the Obama campaign. Some national polls give Mr Obama leads of nearly 50 points over Mr Romney among Latino voters and even then it is possible that his support is being underestimated. Yet, Mr Obama still can't take them for granted.

For one, Mr Romney is ceding nothing. He has been running a parallel campaign targeted solely at Hispanics. Called "Juntos con Romney" (Together with Romney), it has aggressively courted the community, particularly here in Colorado with Spanish-language TV and radio spots. "This is probably one of the biggest outreaches I've ever seen," said Edgar Antillon, chairman of Juntos con Romney in Adams County, east of Denver.

While Mr Romney hurt himself during the primaries paying lip-service to anti-immigrant groups, his supporters argue that many Hispanics are more concerned with the economy. That, certainly, has been the experience of Martin Mendez, who heads Colorado Hispanic Republicans. Each Saturday he and 20 others wave signs at road junctions in Denver with signs that say "No Mas Obama" (No more Obama).

"It's an uphill battle for us because of the neglect of Latinos in Colorado by the party in terms of their being recruited and wooed," he explained this week. But he believes that this time Mr Obama may not get even a majority of Latinos in the state mostly because of the President's promise in 2008 to pass immigration reform that never happened. "He burned Hispanics, he used Hispanics just to get their vote and then turned his back on us."

But the other reason, he says, is that it is the economy that matters most and on that many Latinos, who are often small business owners, like Mr Romney's agenda better. "The biggest issue that appeals to Hispanics is this vision of economic opportunity, which I believe our president is destroying in this country." But Rodrigo Cortez, a Denver bus driver, who with his partner, Elith Rodriguez, has been canvassing voters each weekend in a Latino market here, says Hispanic support for Mr Obama remains strong. The biggest boost, he says, was the President's move to enforce by executive order the main elements of the Dream Act to allow young people brought into the country illegally by their parents to stay in America.

As for the failure to pass wider reform, they get it, he says. "The truth is you are going to have some setbacks, the President doesn't decide everything." Mr Obama can only hope that he is right.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Store Manager & Store Supervisor

£19000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Case Liaison Officer / Administrator

£13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist based in Rochest...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £45,000

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a solutions / s...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific