SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - Can Mitt Romney make up his Latino deficit?
The presumptive Republican nominee's speech to a gathering of Republican National Committee leaders in Arizona today will be closely watched not only for the message he is sending to the party's top brass, but also for his attempts to reach out to Latino voters.
According to a new Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll, President Obama leads Romney among Latinos by a whopping 69 percent to 22 percent.
Today Romney is at ground zero for this voting bloc: If Ohio is all about white working class voters, Arizona and its neighbors are all about the Latino community. And as we noted earlier this week, the Obama campaign isn't wasting any time, launching its first Spanish-language TV and radio ads recently and a new grassroots organizing group "Latinos for Obama."
Obama won 67 percent of the Latino vote in 2008, and most independent analysts say the Republican nominee will need to get around 40 percent of Latino voters in 2012 to win the election, ABC's Devin Dwyer notes.
The Obama campaign believes Romney is lagging so far behind among this group, in particular, that they are making a major push here, putting boots on the ground and dispatching high-profile surrogates like Vice President Joe Biden, who offered this unambiguous prediction yesterday:
"We think we have a real shot at winning the presidential race here in Arizona," Biden said, adding, "you're going to see organizers here."
But Republicans beg to differ.
Earlier this week, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus dismissed Team Obama's talk about winning Arizona as mere posturing.
"The Obama team is setting up a mirage that somehow Arizona is going to be an Obama state or in play," Priebus said. "It's a Republican state, it's a red state."
It's not yet clear what the Romney campaign's strategy is for winning over this important group of voters, but notably before he leaves the state the former Massachusetts governor plans to hold a Hispanic business roundtable in Tempe.
JOHN MCCAIN'S STRAIGHT TALK ON THE FALL CAMPAIGN: "I think it's going to be a very close election, and it's going to come down to five or six states, as you know, and a handful of votes, and the independent voter is going to be very vital," the Arizona GOP Senator said in an interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity last night. "Right now, let's have some straight talk, we're running behind, okay. I think it's about five or six points."
DEMOCRATIC COUNTER-PROGRAMMING. The Democratic National Committee released a new web video today prebutting Sen. John McCain's introduction of Romney today at the RNC gathering in Scottsdale. "While we don't know exactly what he'll say," according to a DNC release, "we thought it might help to look at what he's said over the past few years about Mitt Romney." (Hint: It's not all good.) WATCH: http://bit.ly/HX9CWi
ROMNEY SAYS 'THANK YOU' Before Mitt Romney addresses a meeting of Republican Party state chairs from across the country at their meeting in Arizona on Friday, he will meet privately with some of his most loyal backers on the committee. The Romney campaign organized the behind-the-scenes gathering as a way of thanking supporters from within the Republican National Committee who endorsed the former Massachusetts governor - in particular those who have stuck with him throughout the primary season. (Party leaders who are not yet publicly supporting Romney did not receive invitations.) Romney aides were careful not to cast the speech as an attempt to officially lay claim to the GOP nomination, but said that he would use the opportunity to continue to sharpen the contrast with President Obama as he has been doing on the campaign trail. However, one top Romney adviser told ABC News, "people are ready to rally." And it's evident the Romney team views this week's RNC meeting as an opportunity to solidify party stalwarts, dispatching deputy campaign manager Katie Packer Gage, counsel Ben Ginsberg and other aides to the meeting. Long-time Romney confidant, Ron Kaufman, serves as a national committeeman from Massachusetts, and is among the presumptive GOP nominee's key advocates on the committee. The Romney campaign has already begun coordinating with the RNC on fundraising and messaging.
THIS WEEK ON "THIS WEEK": KEITH OLBERMANN JOINS THE ROUNDTABLE. ABC's George Stephanopoulos welcomes special guests and a powerhouse roundtable to weigh in on all the week's politics, including former Current TV anchor Keith Olbermann, ABC News' George Will, political strategist and ABC News contributor Donna Brazile, political strategist and ABC News political analyst Matthew Dowd and Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan. Tune in on Sunday: http://abcnews.go.com/ThisWeek/
VEEPSTAKES: NO DOESN'T ALWAYS MEAN NEVER. So you want to be the vice presidential nominee? Here's a tip: start by saying you don't. ABC's Matthew Jaffe recalls a hot August day in Wilmington four years ago, when speculation swirled overwho Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama would pick as his running mate. Reporters swarmed Joe Biden when the Delaware senator left his house. "Hey guys," Biden told them, "I'm not the guy." Of course, Biden was "the guy" - days later he was unveiled as Obama's pick. In 2000, Dick Cheney said, "I have no absolutely no desire to go back to government." But at the same time, Cheney was leading George W. Bush's search for a running mate… a search that, ultimately, settled on - yep, Dick Cheney himself. http://abcn.ws/HRStYC
MARCO RUBIO: It should come as no surprise then that the list of potential running mate picks for presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney have repeated time and time again in recent months that they all have absolutely no desire whatsoever to even be so much as mentioned as a possible option. Take Marco Rubio, the freshman Florida senator who has appeared at the top of most veepstakes lists. "I don't want to be the vice president," Rubio said Wednesday. "So if Mitt Romney asks, you will say no?" questioned the National Journal's Major Garrett. "Yes."
SUSANA MARTINEZ: New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, citing her developmentally disabled sister, said "I just couldn't do it." Rep. Paul Ryan, who campaigned in his home state of Wisconsin alongside Romney in the build-up to the Badger State's April 3 primary, said he is "not giving any serious thought to it" because he is "in a good place in Congress.
NIKKI HALEY: South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said, if asked, she would tell Romney, "Thank you, but no."
TIM PAWLENTY: Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who served as a loyal surrogate to Romney after his own presidential bid failed last summer, said, "I'm not going to be considering that." Just in case there was any doubt, Pawlenty noted, "I've taken myself off the list."
BOBBY JINDAL: ABC's Elicia Dover caught up with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal last night in New York City: "Look I've got the job that I want. We just passed signed three historic education reform bills in Louisiana. We're working on pension reform. Obviously I'm going to support our nominee. We need a different president in washington, D.C. But we're doing great work and we've got more to do in Louisiana."
RUBIO PUSHES HIS OWN DREAM ACT. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., wants his party to take a more compassionate approach to the issue of immigration. And he wants to start by changing the immigration laws to allow children of illegal immigrants with a clean record to stay in the United States legally, ABC's Jonathan Karl reports. "We are trying to help real children, real kids who find themselves in an unfortunate circumstance not of their doing, not of their fault," Rubio told reporters in an off-camera briefing. "I think we have an obligation to do that." It's a move that thrusts Rubio into the middle of the divisive debate over immigration and could pit him against many in his own party. But Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants, said his views are a reflection of his personal experience. "Here's the bottom line: I have thousands of kids in my state who fall under this circumstance," Rubio said. "I know people who are under this circumstance. I live Miami, where you can't go four steps without walking into somebody who is an immigrant. My wife's family is from Colombia, the guys around the corner are from Nicaragua; the folks down the street are from Peru. You go to the grocery store, and everybody is from somewhere else." http://abcn.ws/HVZJVj
WHO LET THE DOG FIGHT OUT? GINGRICH DID. ABC's Elicia Dover reminds us: Don't forget who started this dog fight. In January, when the Republican nomination was a two-man race between Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, the attack ads were flying. An ad put out by the Gingrich campaign titled "For the Dogs," was the first candidate attack on Mitt Romney for the treatment of his dog, Seamus. The ad and Gingrich's comments, along with news sources reporting on Romney's questionable treatment of his dog, sparked a period of controversy that seemed to temporarily fade away, but four months later, the dogs are back-this time as ammunition for the Obama campaign as the issue surfaces yet again with Romney as the likely nominee. http://abcn.ws/HWOWOz
CHRIS CHRISTIE TO ROMNEY: DON'T RUSH. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, pressed by reporters to comment on when he thinks Mitt Romney should choose a running mate, said it should be when the presumptive GOP nominee is "comfortable." ABC's Shushannah Walshe reports: "When he's confident that he has vetted and identified the appropriate person then I think he should ask that person, whenever that is and however long that takes," Christie told reporters Thursday. "Now I assume it's going to take a while because he just named Beth Myers to lead his V.P. search and I'm sure they have got a lot of work to do to make sure that they put before Gov. Romney a set of fully vetted and acceptable alternatives for him and then I'm sure he's going to want to think about that a good amount." http://abcn.ws/HVOFrx
IN THE NOTE'S INBOX:
-DEMOCRATS IN THE MONEY. From the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee: "The DSCC had its most successful first quarter of fundraising ever. The DSCC raised more than $17.7 million in the first quarter. This marks the largest first quarter haul in the history of the committee. Last month's total of $7.4 million brings the total raised for the cycle to $70 million. The DSCC now has nearly $24 million on hand and zero debt. 'We have spent the cycle aggressively recruiting great candidates in open and Republican-held seats, our incumbents are building well-funded campaigns, and now donors are more enthusiastic than ever about the likelihood we will keep the majority,' DSCC Executive Director Guy Cecil said in a statement."
-SOUTH CAROLINA BRAGGING RIGHTS. "In today's meeting of the Republican National Committee (RNC) Rules Committee, national Republican Party members passed an amendment protecting future South Carolina Republican Presidential Primaries. The amendment will be up for consideration at the full Republican National Convention in August. … The proposed new RNC rule amendment would allow the four traditional "carve out" states, South Carolina, Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada, to without penalty move their presidential selection contests to up to one month before non-'carve out' states. The South Carolina delegation persuasively lobbied RNC Rules Committee members to protect against the unintended consequences that occurred under the old rule."
@DianeSawyer: @GMA is a team of 125 all stars-hooray for Robin, George, Sam, Josh, Lara & the 120 people we love so much
-Vice President Joe Biden will attend a campaign fundraiser in Santa Barbara, California.
- Mitt Romney will spend the day in Arizona, beginning with an address to the Republican National Committee State Chairman's meeting in Scottsdale. He will also attend two campaign events in Tempe.
- Newt Gingrich will hold a rally in Buffalo, New York.
- Ron Paul will attend a luncheon and rally in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
-ABC's Joanna Suarez
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