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Obama courts Latino vote on radio show


President Obama discussed immigration reform, health care, and the economy during an interview on Univision's popular "Piolin por la Manana" radio program on Monday -- part of a White House effort to drive turnout among Latino voters.

"There is no place in the country where the Latino vote doesn't matter," the president told show host Eddie "Piolin" Sotelo.

Immigration reform dominated the interview on the syndicated program, which was taped Friday in Glendale, CA.

After a glowing introduction that incorporated clips from past Obama speeches, Sotelo joked that he would give the president a choice of topics to talk about it: A) immigration reform, B) immigration reform, C) immigration reform, or D) all of the above. He went on to say that many Hispanics were "disappointed" that the president had not been able to get comprehensive immigration reform legislation passed -- something he vowed to push for during the presidential campaign.

The president said he, too, was disappointed, but that he needed more Republican support to pass a bill, a common refrain from a White House that struggled to get major legislation -- like the health-care overhaul -- through the Senate despite having a majority.

"I have not backed off this issue," Obama said. "But -- somebody said the other day -- I'm president. I'm not king."

He said he would continue to push for passage of a comprehensive overhaul of the rules governing immigration, adding that getting such legislation through Congress was one reason next week's election was so important.

"If the Latino community decides to sit out this election, there will be fewer votes" for immigration reform, he said, explaining that people like Sharron Angle (R), the GOP Senate candidate in Nevada, were against reform.

The president slammed what he termed a "cynical" ad that ran in Nevada calling on Hispanics not to vote.

He defended increased deportations of illegal immigrants with criminal records and, in an effort to broaden the conversation, talked about how the health-care bill would help the Hispanic community and how changes the Democratic Congress has made to student loan programs were giving more Hispanic youth access to college.

On another key issue, the Dream Act, the president said it was important to make a "strategic decision" after talking to immigrant-rights groups and the congressional Hispanic Caucus about whether it made sense to pass a small piece of legislation dealing with the issue or try to include it in a larger bill that would address other issues of concern to the Hispanic community.

"Piolin por la Manana" airs in Spanish. The president's interview was conducted in English, and was followed by a discussion with Univision news Anchor Jorge Ramos in Spanish, meant to highlight the main takeaways for listeners.