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In Univision Forum, Romney Reaches Out To Latinos


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Audie Cornish.

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is reaching out to Latino voters tonight. He took part in a forum on the Spanish-language television network Univision. He's also hosting a rally for Latino supporters in Miami. NPR's Scott Horsley joins us now from Miami.

And, Scott, describe the tone of the questions tonight.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Well, there were no softballs, Audie. The candidate was pressed on his jobs plan. He was pressed by students in the audience about student aid. And most of all, he was pressed by the Univision moderators on his plans for immigration. Romney has opposed the action the president took administer actively to stop deporting the so-called DREAM Act kids, that is illegal immigrants who were brought to this country as children. Romney says the president's action is merely a stop-gap measure and that DREAM Act kids deserve a permanent solution.

MITT ROMNEY: Immigration is an issue we've been speaking about for years. People use it as a political football. They never get the job done. You'd lose your job in the private sector if you didn't get the job done.

HORSLEY: Romney insists that he would get the job done, but he would not say how he would handle people who were already in this country illegally, even when he was pressed on his past support for self-deportation.

CORNISH: Now polls suggest that Romney faces a big deficit with Latino voters compared to President Obama. What is he doing to make up some ground?

HORSLEY: Well, you're right, Audie. President Obama has a very strong support from Latino voters, better than two-thirds support compared to Mitt Romney. And Romney is trying to counter that primarily with an economic argument. He's trying to reach out to Latino entrepreneurs, stressing his support for small businesses, and also stressing the economic hardship that Latinos in particular have suffered in recent years, including an unemployment rate that's well above the national average.

He has a secondary argument, which is to appeal to the sort of cultural conservatism of many Latino voters. That was not a big topic tonight. But he was questioned about same-sex marriage and got a round of applause from the conservative audience tonight when he said that while he supports loving couples of all kinds, he would reserve the term marriage for one man and one woman.

CORNISH: Lastly, Scott, that infamous fund-raising video secretly recorded in Florida last spring had Romney joking that he'd be better off politically if his grandparents had been Latino. Did that come up tonight?

HORSLEY: Well, he was asked about that video and his statement that, you know, 47 percent of Americans don't pay taxes and that many of them are dependent on government. And he actually said something similar tonight about his parentage. He quipped that being Latino might be a political advantage here in Florida where Latinos will be nearly 20 percent of the vote come November, but then he quickly added that even though his father was born in Mexico that his grandparents were American citizens.

CORNISH: Thank you, Scott.

HORSLEY: My pleasure, Audie.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Scott Horsley traveling with the Romney campaign in Florida. Univision will host a separate forum with President Obama tomorrow. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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