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Democratic National Convention Draws Record Number Of Latino Delegates

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San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, left, who will be the convention keynote speaker, and his twin brother, State Representative Joaquin Castro, who is running for U.S. Congress, are interviewed at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., Monday, Sept. 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, left, who will be the convention keynote speaker, and his twin brother, State Representative Joaquin Castro, who is running for U.S. Congress, are interviewed at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., Monday, Sept. 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Republican National convention gave prominent speaking spots to a number of Latino politicians, whom the party called rising stars. Democrats are unimpressed.

Top Democrats made the point on Tuesday that their party has more Latinos, even if they lack the number of Latino governors the GOP has, and their role in this campaign and convention is larger than ever before. The Democratic National Convention this year boasts a record number of Latino delegates -- about 800, more than any such event for either party. There are also three firsts for Latinos: San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro will be the first Latino to give a convention keynote address; Katherine Archuleta is the first Latina to serve as a national political director for a presidential campaign; and Alejandra Salinas is the first Latina president of the College Democrats of America.

"The way I look at it is, we have a very deep bench, and we have so many stars through many layers," Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz told reporters after speaking to the Democratic National Committee Hispanic Caucus. "Julian Castro is one of the key rising stars in our party, and I think he’s going to electrify the arena tomorrow night."

Obama for America campaign manager Jim Messina went further, alluding to speculation that Castro could go on to bigger positions. Some in the party hope he will run for governor of Texas and eventually for president of the United States. Messina invited Castro to make his appearance here.

"You are in for one of those moments that, 10 years from now, you are going to say, 'I was there to hear when he gave that speech,'" Messina said.

Democrats hold a considerable lead over Republicans among Latino voters, one that is likely insurmountable for the GOP this year. Most polls show Obama with more than 60 percent support from Latino voters, whereas Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is stuck around 30 percent.

Still, Democrats are eager to hold onto that lead, especially as enthusiasm for the president among Latino voters dips this year from its high in 2008. Nevertheless, Archuleta said Latinos are "so enthused for this president."

Archuleta added, "There's no one who can tell me that Hispanics and Latinos are not behind our president."

The caucus has urged delegates to expand outreach efforts with more calls, visits and television appearances.

Their pitch will be that Obama has "had our backs," as Archuleta said of Latino voters, with what Democrats claim are better policies on health care, the economy, education and immigration. On the immigration point especially, Democratic officials and caucus leaders said Obama should be applauded for his directive in June to grant work authorization to and halt deportation of some undocumented young people, roughly in line with those who would benefit from the Dream Act.

Romney hasn’t said whether he would end that policy. But he has said he would veto the Dream Act, a permanent solution to give legal status to some young undocumented immigrants if they attend college or join the military. Romney also opposes comprehensive immigration reform to grant paths to citizenship for the undocumented, and said during the GOP primary that he would encourage self-deportation -- a policy of making life difficult until unauthorized immigrants decide to leave.

Democrats don't plan to let Latinos forget those statements.

"He can't get any further to the right [on immigration], and we're not going to let him come back to the middle," Archuleta said. "He said what he said and we're going to hold him there."

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