The focus of the U.S. presidential race turned to America's large and
growing Hispanic population Tuesday, with both major party candidates
addressing a national gathering of Hispanic leaders. VOA's Kent Klein
reports from Washington.
Hispanics are America's largest
minority group, accounting for about 15 percent of the U.S.
population. Although many Hispanics do not vote, either because they
lack citizenship or are not of legal voting age, they represent a
critical voting bloc in many states that could decide the November
The presumed Republican presidential nominee, Senator
John McCain, addressed the League of United Latin American Citizens in
Washington Tuesday. He said all Americans, including Hispanics, will
benefit from his economic plan to keep taxes low.
"There are two
million Latino-owned businesses in America. The first consideration we
should have when debating tax policy is how we can help those companies
grow and increase the prosperity of the millions of American families
whose economic security depends on their success. It is a terrible
mistake to raise taxes during an economic downturn," he said.
in the day, McCain's Democratic rival, Senator Barack Obama, told the
group this year's election is about giving all Americans a fair chance
at the American dream.
"We have to make sure that we have a government
that knows that a problem facing any American is a problem facing all
Americans," he said.
Obama has said he wants to reduce taxes for
middle-income earners. But he has pledged to repeal many of the tax
cuts enacted by President Bush. Obama says those cuts favor the
Historically, as a group, Hispanics have tended to
vote Democratic, sometimes by as much as a two-to-one ratio. But
President Bush made significant inroads among Hispanics in his
successful presidential bids. He won more than 40-percent of the
Hispanic vote in 2004.
Today polls show a significant drop in
Hispanic backing for the Republican Party. Many analysts blame this on
the hard-line stance of many prominent Republicans on fighting illegal
But Senator McCain is a longtime backer of
comprehensive immigration reform that would provide a legal path to
citizenship for many of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants
residing in the United States. Obama has taken a similar
In his speech, McCain noted that Congress has yet to
pass such reform, but said the cause is not lost. He said immigrants
have greatly contributed to America's prosperity and national
character, and will continue to do so.
"I know this country, which I
love more than almost anything, would be the poorer were we deprived of
patriotism, industry, and decency of those millions of Americans whose
families came here from other countries in our hemisphere. I will honor
their contributions to America for as long as I live," he said.
accused McCain of backing away from comprehensive immigration reform
during the primary election season.
"But when he started running for
his party's nomination, he abandoned his courageous stands, and said
that he would not even support his own legislation if it came up for a
vote. Well, for eight long years we have had a president who has made
all kinds of promises to Latinos on the campaign trail, but failed to
live up to them in the White House, and we cannot afford that anymore,"
In the Democratic presidential primary contests,
Hispanics voted overwhelmingly for Barack Obama's rival, Senator
Hillary Clinton. But a recent poll shows Hispanics favor Obama over
McCain 59 to 29 percent.