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Can Hispanics see themselves as 'Junto con Romney' – Together with Romney?

Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney bashed his way to victory in the Republican primaries with a ‘get tough’ message on illegal immigration. Romney is now seeking to build bridges to an uneasy Hispanic constituency.

By Patrik JonssonStaff writer / June 9, 2012

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, campaigning with Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., in Aston, Pa. in April. While Rubio denies any interest in the No. 2 slot on the ticket this year, he's working hard to stay in the national spotlight.

Jae C. Hong/AP

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Prepping for what some see as a potential game-changer speech in front of a Hispanic audience later this month, presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney has begun an effort to recalibrate his fiery anti-illegal immigration rhetoric to dig into the 2-1 advantage President Obama has among the 50 million-strong US Latino community.

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After calling some of his rivals soft on immigration during the Republican primaries, and even suggesting that illegal immigrants should “self-deport,” Mr. Romney has recently hired a Hispanic outreach coordinator and is contemplating proposing an immigration reform package that could include a new class of visas for students. He even has a new Spanish slogan: “Junto con Romney,” or “Together with Romney.”

Contrasted with a slew of other Republican initiatives that seem to demonize Hispanics – purging voter rolls in Florida, inspecting residency papers at schools in Alabama, raising the stakes for picking up day workers in a pickup truck in Georgia – Romney’s gambit to cut into Obama’s advantage seems, at first glance, a Sisyphean task.

Obama would trounce Romney, Perry among Latino voters, survey finds

For Romney the candidate, the Hispanic voting bloc is unfamiliar territory: Massachusetts, where he was governor, has a relatively small Hispanic population compared to other states, and he never got so far in the 2008 campaign as to directly address Hispanic interests. On the other hand, Romney does have a unique Hispanic claim: His father, George, was born in Chihuahua, Mexico, in a colony of Mormons.

Yet while most Hispanics self-identify as liberals, the massive voting bloc is far from a lock for Obama. Hispanics consistently cite the economy, not immigration, as the key issue in the country, and their values – especially when it comes to family and religion – line up more neatly with conservatives than liberals.

At an upcoming speech to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials in June 21, Romney will have an opportunity to contrast his immigration views with those of Obama, who speaks to the group a day later.

According to the Boston Globe, Romney’s advisers are pushing him to consider proposing some kind of immigration reform, potentially along the lines of an idea floated by potential vice-presidential pick Marco Rubio, the Florida senator, that focuses on visas, not citizenship, as a way to bring illegal immigrants into the fold of the documented.

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