Romney courts Latino business owners amid low poll numbers


A supporter cheers US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney as he speaks at a campaign rally at Lake Erie College in Painesville, Ohio, on September 14, 2012.


Nicholas KAMM

LOS ANGELES — Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney landed in Los Angeles on Monday as part of his bid to reach out to Latino voters.

Romney spoke in front of a group of small business owners at the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and made his pitch as the man to fix both the economy and the broken immigration system. 

But the Republican candidate has some serious work to do if he is going to swing a voting block that typically favors Democrats. 

Before the speech, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce CEO Javier Palomarez told NPR station KPCC that while his members are interested in Romney's views on immigration, they are mainly concerned with his economic message.

"Our concerns have more to do with the economy, job creation, taxation and how we keep the engine of America moving forward," Palomarez said.

"At the end of the day we need a ready, willing and capable workforce for a variety of jobs in this nation. We hope he addresses it from an economic perspective because that's the way we look at it," he told KPCC. 

Romney tried to address some of the community's concerns but avoided specifics about how he would breach the partisan divide over US immigration policy, reports Reuters. 

"Americans may disagree about how to fix our immigration system, but I think we can all agree that it is broken," Romney said in an excerpt of his speech released by the campaign.

On the economy, Romney tried to connect with the specific concerns plaguing the Latino community. 

"No one is exempt from the pain of this economy, but the Hispanic community has been particularly hard hit," Romney said. "While national unemployment is 8.1%, Hispanic unemployment is over 10%. Over two million more Hispanics are living in poverty today than the day President Obama took office."

Romney needs a boost from the key voting community if he wants to close a growing gap in the polls. President Obama leads Romney among Latino registered voters 64 percent to 27 percent, according to a Gallup poll conducted around the Republican National Convention at the end of August, reports CNN

The Obama campaign released a web video Monday calling Romney's attempts to court Hispanics, "Extreme Makeover, Latino Edition," reports CNN. The video claims Romney is attempting to "overhaul his positions and slow his sharply declining popularity in the Latino community."

Romney was expected to do an interview with Spanish-language television channel Telemundo later on Monday.