ORLANDO, Fla. -- They go where the votes and the clout reside.
Today those political realities bring President Barack Obama to the NALEO conference in Lake Buena Vista, outside Orlando.
NALEO is the National Association of Latin Elected and Appointed Officials. Observers note that the entire political spectrum is represented here, but add that the majority of the 1,300 participants are Democrats -- that most likely means a warm welcome for the president after his executive order last week that temporarily bans deportation of those who were children when they arrived in the U.S. as illegal immigrants.
Mitt Romney, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, decried President Obama's action as a purely political ploy. Other Republicans call it an end run around Congress. Polls, though, suggest strong Hispanic support for the move.
That Hispanic vote is a growing force on the American political landscape. NALEO surveys say that nearly 14 percent of registered voters in Florida -- always a battleground state -- are Hispanic. Their vote here, and across the country, could prove pivotal in the presidential race.
President Obama, though, told this conference nearly four years ago that, if elected, he would deliver on comprehensive immigration reform. He has not. The polarized struggle on how to move forward continues.
Republicans, as Romney emphasized in his address yesterday before NALEO, want to focus primarily on the economy. They argue that is the issue impacting all Americans, and Romney noted that Hispanic unemployment is higher than the overall jobless rate.
The debates will only intensify in the months ahead. Hispanics, with their growing clout, are making sure they have a permanent role in shaping the answers and the next generation of leadership in local, state and national politics.
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