WASHINGTON -- Vice President Joe Biden told Latinos in an address to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute on Thursday they "are about to become -- and already have -- the most powerful force in American politics."

"The contribution of the Hispanic community has been incredible, but you ain’t seen nothing yet," he told the crowd, which included a number of prominent Latinos and members of Congress, as well as young people in Washington for the group's conference.

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, which was founded by Latino members of congress, celebrated its 35th anniversary this year. Its conference has been a staple for the Obama White House, and President Barack Obama addressed the crowd in 2010 and 2011.

This year, especially, Latino voters are highly coveted in the election, and Biden's speech focused on both praising their contributions and touting his administration's policies to further help the community.

He also took digs at Republicans, repeating a recent attack line. "This isn't your father's Republican party," he said. "As a matter of fact, it's not even Mitt Romney's father's Republican Party."

Biden said the Republican Party "pushes voter suppression all around the country, pushes budgets that would push hundreds of thousands of children out of early education, cuts back on Pell grants, [and] puts college out of reach for tens of thousands of qualified Hispanic children."

Obama and Biden are leading significantly among Latino voters, a gap that Romney has little chance of fully closing. Still, Democrats need to ensure those voters get to the polls, despite lower enthusiasm for the president than in 2008.

Biden promised to continue pushing for policies a majority of Latinos support, such as comprehensive immigration reform and protecting educational programs. "That's the way up, and that's the way out," he said of education, which in most polls ranks near the top of Latinos' top concerns.

He said he hopes to see young people who are given scholarships and other aid by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute in politics someday.

"I''m here to say thank you, and tell you how much this great country owes you and how much more can be done with the infusion of new blood, of new ideas," he said.

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