GOP Courts Hispanics, Democrats Try To Woo Youth

The Republicans could use the vice presidential slot to appeal to Hispanics. Meanwhile, President Obama used his weekly address to focus on the high cost of student loans.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Now Marco Rubio happens to be one of those regularly mentioned as a possible vice presidential choice for Mitt Romney. And that's where we pick up our discussion with Cokie Roberts, who joins us most Mondays. Cokie, good morning.

COKIE ROBERTS, BYLINE: Hi, Steve.

INSKEEP: So is the vice presidential choice an opportunity for Romney to appeal to Hispanics?

ROBERTS: Well, obviously he thinks so, which is why Rubio's name keeps coming up. Rubio first said that he was not going to do it, and now he says let's let the process play itself out. I'm not sure that that really helps Romney with Hispanics. Rubio, as you just heard, is Cuban American, which is not the case for most Hispanics in this country. And I just - I'm not sure that that would do it for him, even if Romney goes in that direction.

He's also talked about Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida who's been popular with Hispanics there. But that would mean we've had a lot of elections with Bushs on the ballot. Susana Martinez, the Republican female governor of New Mexico, is also a mentioned name, although her approval ratings are quite low at the moment, in New Mexico.

And she's, you know, an example of that throwing the dice that Republican presidential candidates have done in a few recent elections, whether it was Dan Quayle with George H. W. Bush or Sarah Palin with John McCain. So I think there's kind of a feeling, on the part of the party, that they'd prefer to go with a safer bet, someone like Senator Rob Portman of Ohio.

The problem with that, of course, Steve, is that Mitt Romney is the safe bet, and so then do you have two safe bets and, you know, where do you light up the electorate then?

INSKEEP: So Republicans talk about trying to light up the electorate, trying to capture more Hispanic votes. President Obama seems to be focusing on reenergizing the youth vote, talking about student loans over the weekend.

ROBERTS: He did, in his radio address, and he's going out to those swing states, North Carolina, Iowa, Colorado, to campuses this week. Because if Congress fails to act on backing student loans by the federal government, they are scheduled - on July 1st - some of those loans, are scheduled to double their interest rates, to go from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent.

And right now, there's more student loan debt in this country than credit card debt. So this is a very serious issue for a lot of people. But the president's trying to cast it, again, as the Republicans preferring to give tax breaks to millionaires than to give student loan breaks to the middle-class. And he's saying this is just a practical thing for the government to be doing, to help out people to go to college at a time when a college degree is so important.

And he's casting it as a, sort of, friendly role of government in this election where the role of government is the issue.

INSKEEP: Well, if the role of government is the issue, how much does it hurt the president to have scandals in the Secret Service and the General Services Administration?

ROBERTS: I don't think it's helpful. I think - isn't particularly, because those issues, those scandals are overshadowing any other message he's trying to get out. And the Secret Service, of course, is the bigger story and there's calls for more investigation, and female members of Congress saying that if there were more women in the Secret Service - it's only 11 percent - that these things might not be happening.

And it is a big story, and it is a big, sexy story, to put it mildly. But the GSA story could be a rougher one for the president, because that's about misuse of tax payer dollars at a time when he was on the case. And that could end up hurting him.

INSKEEP: Cokie, it's always a pleasure. Cokie Roberts joins us most Mondays on MORNING EDITION, and you can continue following this program throughout the day on Facebook and on Twitter. We're @MorningEdition and @NPRInskeep.

It's NPR News.

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