FORT WORTH -- In his first public campaign appearance in the Lone Star State, presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney today offered a twist on his traditionally economic-focused stump speech by directly reaching out to Hispanic voters, who Romney said were especially hard hit in the current economic downturn.
"This Obama economy has been hard particularly on Hispanic businesses and Hispanic Americans," Romney said. "I don't know if you've seen the numbers recently, but did you know that the rate of unemployment among Hispanic Americans rose last month to 11%. And that the people in this country that are poor, living in poverty, one out of three are Hispanic American."
"Hispanic Americans... in large measure have looked to entrepreneurs and innovators and small business to get going," Romney continued. "But this has been such an anti, anti-small business, hostile to small business environment that its been harder for those businesses to open up their doors and to hire more people."
"I can tell you that if I'm the next president of the United States, I'll be the president for all Americans and make sure this economy is good for all Americans, Hispanic and otherwise," he concluded.
The outreach to Hispanics is fitting in Texas, where 38% of the population claims Hispanic heritage, according to the latest census figures, and vital to Romney's prospects in November as the latest NBC/WSJ poll shows the president holding a 34-point lead among registered Latino voters.
Romney, who staked out arguably the toughest stance on illegal immigration in the GOP primary, never uttered the word "immigration" in today's 23 minute address, instead keeping the focus on the economy -- the singular issue his campaign aides say will decide the election.
The former Massachusetts governor himself told donors in April that Republicans had to find a way to get Hispanic voters into the fold, and that polls that show massive advantages for Democrats amongst the fast-growing group "spells doom for us."
“Hispanics stand to lose the most from Romney’s insistence on the same failed economic policies that created the economic crisis, including his plans to give massive tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires, allow Wall Street write its own rules again, and let foreclosures ‘hit the bottom.’ Obama campaign spokesperson Gabriela Domenzain countered in a statement.
Today, Romney said he thought the president might make a move on the economy -- which he described had "some things" getting better, in spite of the administration's policies -- for electoral reasons.
"It's amazing: Three and a half years in - three and a half years in as president, with America in crisis, with 23 million people out of work or stopped looking for work, he hasn't put forth a plan to get us working again. Now I know we're getting close to an election so he'll come out with one soon," Romney predicted.
Romney also made mention of two notable Texas politicians: Gov. Rick Perry and former president George W. Bush -- neither of whom is expected to campaign or fundraise with Romney on his current two-day swing through the state.
"President George W. Bush was at the White House for the unveiling of his painting last week," Romney said, over cheers for the native Texan former president, whose name he rarely breathes on the campaign trail. "You know, he's always an easy target and so he's blamed. But after three and half years, people have figured out this Obama's economy, not George Bush's economy.
And for Perry, and the Lone Star State itself, which greeted the presumptive nominee with 97 degree temperatures, Romney had only kind words.
"Thank you, Texas, for taking me over the line and helping me get the nomination. Thank you! That was, that was good news and you guys worked hard to get me over that line. I appreciate it very much," Romney said. "Your governor has been a great friend. We had a lot of people in the contest. We all came together because we recognize there's something we've got to do as Republicans -- come together to defeat Barack Obama and take back America."