Mitt Romney addresses National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials in Orlando

The race for the White House heats up today at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) conference in Orlando.

Today, Mitt Romney is scheduled to address Latino leaders , where he is expected to push an economy-focused message. Tomorrow, President Obama will speak to some 1200 Hispanic officials at the event.

The conference will mark the first time Obama and Romney will address the same Hispanic audience in back-to-back events this campaign season

It is a sign–just the latest–of the growing clout of Hispanics in the United States.  Florida is a prime example. Estimates say Hispanics comprise 18 percent of the state's electorate. Their vote could prove crucial in this huge battleground state in November.

Everyone at the conference will be waiting to see if Romney lays out a specific vision for immigration reform. Observers say he was caught flatfooted when President Obama last week announced that he would suspend deportations and offer renewable work permits to young illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.  But the president has history he must explain too.  In 2008, during his run for the White House, NALEO says Obama promised he would return to the conference with comprehensive immigration reform if elected. That hasn't happened. Democrats and Republicans, not surprisingly, blame the other side for that failure.

Immigration, education, health issues–NALEO will be taking the measure of two men vying for their support in the hotly contested 2012 presidential race.

That is clout but Hispanics are waiting to see whether political maneuvering will be translated into concrete policy action.

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