07/21/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Obama Talks Health at Latino Convention

SAN DIEGO, Calif.--During a speech emphasizing his shared values with the Latino community, Barack Obama unveiled another aspect of his health care plan at the annual convention of the National Council of La Raza, the largest Latino civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States.

Obama announced yesterday that his plan would assist small business owners in providing health benefits for their employees by providing tax credits to employers.

"An idea, by the way, that was championed by my friend Hillary Clinton," said Obama in front of a crowd of 2,000, many of whom applauded at the mention of Clinton.

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In his speech, which covered many issues important to Latinos, including immigration, education, health care and women's issues, Obama criticized John McCain's health care plan, saying that many people would lose the health care they already have, and it would increase taxes on the middle class.

"It's about the Latino families who are the first ones hurt by an economic downturn and the last ones helped by an economic upturn," he told the audience gathered for brunch at the San Diego Convention Center. Obama argued that Latinos could not afford to live under the Bush economic policies that the McCain camp is supporting.

"Make no mistake about it -- the Latino community holds this election in its hands," Obama said. He named Florida, Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico as states that hinge on the participation of the Latino vote.

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The Latino population nationwide is estimated at about 46 million, but because many are not citizens or old enough to vote, they make up only 9 percent of the eligible voter population. However in New Mexico, Latinos make up 37 percent of eligible voters, according to the Pew Research Center.

"I'm not taking a single Latino vote for granted in this campaign," Obama said.

To make his point clear, he reminded the audience of the 2004 presidential election, when 40,000 registered Latino voters in New Mexico did not turn out at the polls, and Democrat John Kerry lost the state by less than 6,000 votes.

"I know how powerful this community is," Obama said. "And by the way, so does John McCain."

McCain will address the La Raza audience Monday. The visits to La Raza by both presidential candidates marks the third time they have attended Latino conventions in the past three weeks.