With the GOP trailing badly among Latino voters, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney brought his campaign to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce's 33rd annual national convention in downtown Los Angeles Monday, outlining his plans for jump-starting the American economy by supporting businesses.
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"My plan is premised on the conviction that it is freedom that drives our economy—that free people, creating free enterprises, is what creates good jobs with good wages," Romney said. "Government supports the job creators, but it cannot take their place."
Romney detailed five steps he would take as president to create 12 million jobs and raise salaries, including capitalizing on North American energy resources to achieve energy independence, bolstering the education system and slashing the national deficit.
"I will put the federal government on a track to a balanced budget by eliminating programs that are not absolutely essential and cutting federal subsidies for things like Amtrak, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Legal Services Corporation and the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities," he said. "I like some of these things but we just can't afford them. In fact, my test is this—is the program so critical that it is worth borrowing money from China to pay for it?"
Romney also touched on the issue of immigration, saying he would prioritize controlling the borders and making the system "more simple and transparent."
He said he opposes "amnesty" for undocumented immigrants, "because amnesty will make it harder, not easier to strengthen our legal immigration system."
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Several hours before Romney's appearance, some local Hispanic elected officials lashed out at Romney's stances on the economy and issues impacting the Latino population.
"Regardless of what Mr. Romney may choose to say in that room, the record is clear that the Romney-Ryan ticket is a clear pathway back to the failed policies that caused the worst financial crisis in generations," Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, said.
Councilman Ed Reyes added, "We know that Romney is on the wrong side of every issue that's important to the Hispanic community."
The chamber's convention "provides an important forum for Governor Romney to address key economic issues that directly impact the country's three million Hispanic-owned businesses," said Nina Vaca, the chamber's chairman of the board.
Romney's attendance "demonstrates the important role that Hispanic business plays in our national political conversation," said Javier Palomarez, the chamber's president and CEO.
The chamber invites the Democratic and Republican nominees for each presidential campaign to address its national convention. President Barack Obama will not be addressing the four-day convention, which concludes Tuesday.
He spoke at campaign events Monday in Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio.
The chamber, the umbrella organization for more than 200 local Hispanic chambers in the United States and Puerto Rico, bills itself as actively promoting the economic growth and development of Latino entrepreneurs.
Romney's appearance coincided with his campaign's release of two new television ads.
In a new 30-second commercial, Romney calls for trade policies that "crack down on cheaters like China" and for opening new markets, balancing the budget, cutting the deficit, reducing spending, and having "tax policies, regulations and health care policies that help small business."
U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk announced Monday that the U.S. has requested dispute settlement consultations with China at the World Trade Organization concerning China's auto and auto parts "export base" subsidy program, which he says appears to provide export subsidies prohibited under WTO rules.
Romney called the request for dispute settlement consultations "too little, too late for American businesses and middle class families."
"President Obama's credibility on this issue has long since vanished," Romney said.
"I will not wait until the last months of my presidency to stand up to China, or do so only when votes are at stake. From day one, I will pursue a comprehensive strategy to confront China's unfair trade practices and ensure a level playing field where our businesses can compete and win."
A second commercial, titled "Failing American Families," cites recent Census Bureau data about the decline in median family incomes since Obama took office and discusses the ever-burgeoning national debt.
"We have a moral responsibility not to spend more than we take in. We can't keep buying and spending and passing on debts to our kids. And I'll stop it," Romney says in the ad.
Polls have shown the Republicans far behind the Democrats with Latino voters—about 70 percent versus 25 percent. Republican strategists have no hope of overcoming that deficit but hope to cut the Democrats' lead, particularly in battleground states.
The Obama campaign Monday released a nearly two-minute Internet video mocking Romney's efforts to win support from Latinos, calling it one of his "most implausible makeovers yet."
The video shows Romney's claiming during a Republican primary debate that illegal immigrants would voluntarily leave the United States—self-deport—after being unable to find jobs.
It also shows Romney's pledges to repeal the health care legislation popularly known as Obamacare and veto the DREAM Act, which would give conditional permanent residence to illegal immigrants who arrived in the country as minors and met other requirements.
Romney is scheduled to attend a late-afternoon campaign fundraiser Monday at the Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa.