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Fort Worth - US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, scrambling to boost his support among Hispanics, cast himself as a solution to high unemployment rates as part of a two-day Texas tour that raised $15-million for his campaign to replace President Barack Obama.
Romney's comments at a Hispanic-owned business - and his avoidance of any mention of immigration issues - were the latest sign that the former Massachusetts governor is relying on an economic argument to try to cut into Obama's sizable lead in surveys of Hispanic voters.
At a later fund-raising event it was revealed that Romney's two days in Texas had proved lucrative, raising $15-million, including $3.5-million from about 500 people in Dallas on Tuesday night.
That total far outpaced his previous haul from Texas of about $6-million and was a sign of Republican unity around Romney in the battle to carry him to victory on November 6.
Recent polls have indicated Romney trails the Democratic president by more than 30 percentage points among Hispanics. Republican officials have acknowledged he needs to significantly increase his support among this growing ethnic population to win the presidency in the November 6 election.
When Obama was elected in 2008, about two-thirds of Hispanics backed him over Republican John McCain.
Polls have indicated that many Hispanic voters have been alienated by strict immigration laws passed by Republican-led state legislatures.
Republicans in Congress have also opposed the DREAM Act, which would create a path to US citizenship for immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children.
To deal with illegal immigration, Romney has said he favours a “self-deportation” policy, meaning that illegal immigrants restricted from working in the United States would leave the country because of their inability to find a job.
On the campaign trail, however, Romney has generally avoided the immigration issue and focused on attacking Obama policies he says have driven up unemployment - particularly among Hispanics, whose 11 percent jobless rate outstrips the 8.2 percent national average.
“This Obama economy particularly has been hard on Hispanic businesses and Hispanic Americans,” Romney said in Fort Worth as part of his pitch for lower taxes and reduced government regulation to help create jobs.
“I can tell you, if I'm the next president of the United States, I'll be the president for all Americans and make sure the economy is good for all Americans, Hispanic and otherwise.”
In sticking with economic issues, Romney is figuring that finding jobs is far more important to the nation's roughly 50-million Hispanics than finding solutions for how to deal with the 12-million or so illegal immigrants in the United States.
However, it is unclear whether that logic will help him cut into Obama's support among Hispanics, who make up about 16 percent of the US population.
Romney's campaign released a new Spanish-language web video, titled “Dismal”, that said he believes rising unemployment and more Hispanics in poverty is not the “right path” for our country.
The Obama campaign fired back, saying that under Obama's leadership, the jobless rate among Hispanics had dipped almost two percentage points in the last 27 months.
“Hispanics stand to lose the most from Romney's insistence on the same failed economic policies that created the economic crisis,” Obama's campaign said in a statement.
During his campaign swing Romney made one of his first lengthy references to Obama's predecessor, Texas Republican George W. Bush, who appeared with Obama at the White House last week for the unveiling of his presidential portrait.
Bush has said he backs Romney but, unlike his father, former president George H.W. Bush, he has not formally endorsed Romney because he wants to stay out of election-year politics.
Obama has blamed Bush for leaving him with an economic crisis and cites a severe recession as the main reason why job growth has been slow.
“George W. Bush was at the White House for the unveiling of his painting last week. He's always an easy target, and so he's blamed, although after three and a half years, people have figured out this is Obama's economy, not George Bush's economy,” Romney said. - Reuters