Oct. 30, 2012— -- The Obama campaign's closing argument to Latino voters boils down to this: Elect our ticket and the chances go up that comprehensive immigration reform becomes a reality.
The latest evidence came on Tuesday, when Vice President Joe Biden told Univision Radio's Enrique Santos why Latinos should back President Barack Obama over Republican nominee Mitt Romney.
"For example, right now you got the president and I and a lot of Democrats out there breaking our neck, trying to get a real immigration law that takes million of people out of the shadows," Biden said. "Making sure that DREAMers don't have to go back -- in many cases -- to countries they never been."
And take what Obama told the Des Moines Register in an interview last week. "The second thing I'm confident we'll get done next year is immigration reform," he said. "George Bush and Karl Rove were smart enough to understand the changing nature of America. And so I am fairly confident that they're going to have a deep interest in getting that done. And I want to get it done because it's the right thing to do and I've cared about this ever since I ran back in 2008."
Here is where it comes full circle as a message to Latino voters. The Obama/Biden ticket makes the case that increased turnout from Latino voters will improve the chances of a bill passing through Congress. And Republicans will support it in an effort to avoid further backlash from a community they have failed to properly court.
"All of the sudden those guys who paid no attention to you -- no attention to the Hispanic community, no attention to the Latino community," Biden told Santos, "-- all of the sudden they are going to say, 'Oh my Lord, I guess we had better get in line with the president.'"
Republicans have responded that Latino voters shouldn't be buying into any of this.
The Republican National Committee circulated a memo to reporters on Monday highlighting that Obama did not deliver on his 2008 campaign promise to bring up a comprehensive immigration bill during his first year in office, something that the president said happened in part because of resistance from congressional Republicans and efforts to pass an economic stimulus to address the Great Recession and healthcare law.
The memo also noted that Obama called immigration reform the "biggest failure" of his first term during a Univision-sponsored event in September.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), who has repeatedly criticized his own party's tone on the immigration issue, called Obama's handling of it "incredibly cynical," telling Newsmax that he's let the issue linger in order to use it as a "political club."
Still, Obama strategy appears to have paid dividends among Latino voters. He leads Romney by 52-points within this group, according to a Latino Decisions poll released Monday. With the horse race becoming increasingly close, Obama's advantage among Latinos could help him defeat Romney if enough voters show up to the polls. Latinos have become an increasingly important group, considering that non-Latino white voters overwhelmingly support Romney.
As it stands, Romney's position on immigration is unpalatable to a vast majority of Latino voters who favor some kind of relief for the 12 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.
Romney has said he would work to pass immigration reform in his first year, but his definition of reform differs significantly from Obama's. He does not favor a pathway to legal status for most of the 12 million undocumented immigrants. Instead he said in January that he would back a "self-deportation" strategy that would implement enforcement laws designed to make life tougher for undocumented immigrants in the U.S., and thus cause them to leave on their own.
He's also said he would veto the current version of the DREAM Act, which failed to pass over Republican opposition in 2010, but would back some sort of "permanent solution" for young undocumented immigrants that would include a pathway to legal status for those who serve in the military.
Whether Obama is able to accomplish comprehensive immigration reform in his second term truly depends on a few things: his willingness to spend political capital on the issue and the makeup of the next Congress. But it's clear that Obama is staking much of his reelection on the issue of immigration and whether he delivers will be a significant part of his legacy.