The man emerging as the leading voice for President Obama in the Hispanic community is L.A. Congressman Xavier Becerra.
In a Fox News Latino exclusive interview with me, Rep. Becerra goes after a new ad from Mitt Romney, the likely GOP nominee. The ad web ad, titled “Dismal,” attacks the president for high unemployment among Hispanics.
“Well, first it is inaccurate because the unemployment rate has dropped for Latinos since the President has come in, since the height of a Bush recession,” said Becerra. “But what’s interesting about this so-called Republican ad to the Latino community – it is a web ad.”
Rep. Becerra said the web ad cost only between $13,000 and $15,000. He compared it to the more than $50 million spent by Republicans to help Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin.
“So I think it has become clear where and how the Romney campaign and Mr. Romney thinks about Latinos,” said Rep. Becerra. “He’s an investor and for him to invest such a tiny fraction of his campaign money to reach out to Latinos, I think, is a clear sign: He doesn’t think too much about Latinos.”
An organized labor and pro-Obama super pac, meanwhile, has already launched a $4 million Spanish-language ad campaign targeting Hispanic voters.
Rep. Becerra acknowledges that the Romney camp is likely to do more to try to win Latino votes. Last week, a new poll found the president leading Romney 61-27 among Latinos. But that is a drop from previous polling that showed the president with about 70 percent support.
The same poll, done for Telemundo, The Wall Street Journal and NBC, also found 49 percent of Latinos blaming President Obama for high gas prices and nearly a third, 31percent, saying he has made the budget deficit worse. The Romney campaign also announced its “Hispanic Leadership Team,” including Sen. Marco Rubio [R-FL.] and New Mexico’s Republican Gov. Susana Martinez. And Sen. Marco Rubio remains a prime contender to be selected as Romney’s running mate, another step that could help the Republican with Hispanic voters.
Rep. Becerra is not concerned about the slight drop in the president’s poll numbers with Latinos.
“It has become very clear that not only does the President continue to have solid support with the Latino community and Latino voters but that Mitt Romney’s got some real work to do to try to etch-a-sketch his way out of the hole he dug himself in with Latino voters.”
The L.A. congressman, whose district is 70 percent Hispanic, said there will be some pride attached to any Hispanic, including Sen. Rubio, who is considered for a spot on a Presidential ticket. But Rep. Bacerra said no matter who runs with Romney, the focus will be the hard-line Romney articulated, with calls for self-deportation, opposition to the Dream Act and support for hard-line Arizona-type state laws to deport more immigrants without documentation.
The 54-year-old Becerra has represented California’s 31st district since 2003.
Becerra could well be the Democrat’s Marco Rubio. He is perfectly positioning himself for a higher office in his political future.
The son of working class Mexican immigrants, Becerra quickly rose through the ranks of Democratic politics in the golden state becoming a key ally of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. As the current Vice Chairman of the House Democratic Conference, Becerra is the one of the highest-ranking Latino elected officials in the country. He was a Democratic conferee to the Super-Committee last year and serves on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee.
As a Mexican-American, Becerra could be an effective surrogate for Obama and Democratic Congressional Candidates with the Hispanic community. Mexicans make up 63 percent of the Hispanic population in the U.S.
Cuban-Americans, such as Marco Rubio, make up less than 4 percent.
I asked Becerra if President Obama’s historic high rate of deporting undocumented immigrants is going to hurt him with Hispanic voters. Becerra said the President has to enforce the law in dealing with people who are in the country without documentation. The real problem, he said, is that House Republicans continue to block immigration-reform efforts. He said recent efforts by Sen. Rubio to change the Dream Act to win Republican support in Congress appear to have failed.
“I have a feeling those Republicans who have talked about doing something have not been able to get Republican support,” said Becerra.
“It’s not so much the President running against the Congress,” Becerra said of the Congress’s inability to pass immigration reform. “It’s the President telling the American people, including the Latino population, that you’ve got a Congress that’s been unwilling to work and not now-, not just unwilling to work, but unwilling to work with the President.”
Expect to see more of congressman Becerra on television and in a prominent speaking slot at the Democratic National Convention.
Juan Williams is a co-host of FNC's "The Five," where he is one of seven rotating Fox personalities.