Obama Appeals To Latino Voters

The Latino vote promises to be vital in November's presidential election. Both Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama have been actively seeking to build support with Latino organizations. Sunday, Obama spoke in San Diego to the National Council of La Raza, a leading Hispanic advocacy group.

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ANDREA SEABROOK, host:

The presidential campaign headed back into the heart of Latino America today. Democrat Barack Obama spoke to the National Council of La Raza in San Diego, and Republican John McCain addresses the same group tomorrow. It's the third time in as many weeks both candidates have squared off before influential Hispanic organizations.

In a few minutes, we'll take a look at the political journey of one Latino voter.

First, though, NPR's Allison Keyes reports on how the candidates are making their pitch.

ALLISON KEYES: In an appearance today before La Raza, Obama vowed to make immigration reform a top priority if voters send him to the White House.

Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois; Democratic Presidential Candidate): I will be a president who stands with you and fights for you and walks with you every single step of the way because here's something else I know, that when the system isn't working, people who love the country can come together to change it.

KEYES: But the Illinois senator again criticized McCain, telling the crowd it's time for a president who won't walk away from something when it becomes politically unpopular.

Sen. OBAMA: I know Senator McCain used to buck his party on immigration by fighting for - comprehensive reform, and I admired for it and joined him in it, but when he was running for his party's nomination, he abandoned that courageous stance.

KEYES: McCain appears at the La Raza conference tomorrow afternoon, but his camp set up a conference call with former U.S. Treasurer Rosario Marin. She said Obama has no moral authority to accuse McCain of changing positions about immigration, and she challenged Obama's commitment to Latinos.

Ms. ROSARIO MARIN (Former Treasurer of the United States): He basically has not shown any leadership, has not shown any great peril, and he's just joining the chorus now that this issue is before, and he's attempting to reach Hispanic voters.

KEYES: Marin says McCain tried last year to forge bipartisan immigration legislation.

Ms. MARIN: At great political peril, he took this issue and tried to bring both sides to come within comprehensive immigration reform. It almost happened, but it didn't because of people like Senator Obama casting votes that eventually unraveled the immigration package.

KEYES: Obama's camp countered that McCain has launched what it called another false, negative attack on the Democrats' immigration record. A recent AP-Yahoo poll shows Obama leading McCain 47 percent to 22 percent among Latino voters, but more than a quarter are still undecided.

Next on the campaign schedule, both candidates will be courting the African-American vote later this week as they appear at the NAACP conference in Cincinnati.

Allison Keyes, NPR News, Washington.

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