WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama told The Des Moines Register on Tuesday that there was a strong possibility that he'd win a second term because of the extent to which Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney had alienated Hispanic voters.
"Since this is off the record, I will just be very blunt," Obama said on a call Tuesday with the Register's publisher and editor, which was originally meant to be off the record. "Should I win a second term, a big reason I will win a second term is because the Republican nominee and the Republican Party have so alienated the fastest-growing demographic group in the country, the Latino community."
The statement was part of an interview that the White House never intended to go public. The president talked to the editors at the Register on condition that the conversation be kept off the record. The paper complained, asking for some explanation for why they couldn't print what the president had said (the campaign said it was the White House's call). The paper ended up taking their complaints public in a blistering blog post on Tuesday night. By Wednesday morning, the Obama campaign relented.
Jen Psaki, a spokeswoman for the Obama campaign, told reporters Wednesday morning that the Register had asked to make the interview public. "We have said that is fine," she said, according to a pool report.
Ironically, nothing in the transcript appears all too exciting. In fact, much of it is banal. But the hoopla around the process of conducting the interview gave it more buzz. The caution initially exhibited by the Obama campaign, after all, was surprising. The Register is the most important paper in Iowa, itself a critical battleground state. And while the impact of endorsements on elections tends to be overstated, it wouldn't be in any candidate's interest to alienate the paper's editorial page.
Obama's observations, even when offered under the supposition of an off-the-record conversation, weren't all that uncommon for him or his campaign. The president has a huge lead with Latino voters -- a polling firm predicted on Wednesday that he will win their vote by a three-to-one margin -- and Romney has not been able to significantly cut into it, despite outreach efforts.
Previous Republicans have done better with Latino voters, as Obama pointed out to the paper.
"George Bush and Karl Rove were smart enough to understand the changing nature of America," he said.
Latinos by and large oppose the Republican Party's views on immigration reform, and support adding pathways to citizenship for those undocumented immigrants already in the country. Obama's plan would include methods for undocumented immigrants to become citizens, while Romney opposes "amnesty" and paths to citizenship. Despite Romney's attempt to shift back to the center, the Obama campaign has done what it can to remind Latinos of the hardline statements that Romney made during the Republican primary. During the Register interview, Obama pledged once more to pass immigration reform in his second term.
"I want get it done because it’s the right thing to do and I've cared about this ever since I ran back in 2008," he said.
In addition to immigration reform, President Obama also laid out other agenda items for his next four years in office, should he win them. He discussed implementing the Wall Street and health care reform laws that he passed during his first term, and investing in new energy technologies and infrastructure as well as home retrofitting. As for tax reform he noted, "a serious corporate tax reform agenda that's revenue-neutral but lowers rates and broadens the base."
And, perhaps to the chagrin of some in his party, he said he would revisit the deal that he and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) nearly pulled off during the debt-ceiling showdown in the summer of 2011.
"It will probably be messy," Obama told the Register. "It won't be pleasant. But I am absolutely confident that we can get what is the equivalent of the grand bargain that essentially I’ve been offering to the Republicans for a very long time, which is $2.50 worth of cuts for every dollar in spending, and work to reduce the costs of our health care programs."