TAMPA - Nearly a dozen high ranking While House officials gathered at the University of Tampa for a Hispanic issues summit.
On it's face, the administration is being proactive in addressing the economic, health and educational challenges facing Hispanics. But you can't ignore the timing in an election year.
The departments of Labor and Homeland Security were among the agencies represented in what is essentially a White House listening tour.
Three of the last thirteen stops have been in Florida, a fact not lost on political consultant Victor Dimaio
"Texas goes to the Republicans. California and New York go to the Democrats. Florida is the fourth state. The swing state," said DiMaio.
A recent Univision/ABC poll shows President Barack Obama leading in Hispanic support over Mitt Romney 72% to 25%. In Florida, Obama beats Romney by just 10 points, but both parties like to think their Hispanic support is on the upswing.
"Democrats are very concerned about losing their Latino vote. And they are (losing it) in droves as evidenced by the presidential primaries," said Republican Congressional candidate, E.J. Otero.
Otero admits that belief is anectodal. The primary debates did feature heated exhanges on immigration policy, but it may have alienated as many Hispanic voters as it won over.
Newt Gingrich's comment about the "language of living in the ghetto" was resurrected while Romney had to defend deporting grandmothers.
Otero has no problem with the the frontrunner's wish to do away with bi-lingual ballots, but the proposed Dream Act which give legal status to illegal immigrant youth who attend college or enlist in the military puts him outside the mainstream of his party.
"If they have been contributing to the economy to the state of Florida and they want to go into the universities, there's no problem with that."
The Obama administration supports the Dream Act but has been tough on illegal immigration in other ways.
Obama's I.N.S. has deported a record number of illegal immigrants -- 1.2 million in the last three years.
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