Latinos cheer Clintons call: Elect Obama president

DENVER — More than 1,000 Latino delegates and guests to the Democratic National Convention here stood and cheered as Hillary Rodham Clinton urged them to unite and help elect Barack Obama president on Nov. 4.

“I came here to say ‘Thank you!’” Clinton said in her speech to a meeting of the Hispanic Caucus in a ballroom of the Colorado Convention Center. She thanked the crowd for working tirelessly on her behalf during the hard-fought primaries.

Then she added, “We came here to pledge our support for the next president of the United States, Barack Obama. … I know with all my heart we cannot afford four more years of failed Republican policies. On any issue that matters to you, we must have a Democratic president. … I want you to work as hard to make Barack Obama the next president as you worked for me.” The crowd erupted in deafening cheers.

The rousing display of unity came amid a media drumbeat that “bitter” Clinton supporters, especially Latinos, plan to sit out the presidential election.

Clinton is expected to deliver a similar message of unity when she speaks to the DNC Tuesday. The Associated Press reported that she has agreed to call for a suspension of the balloting and the unanimous nomination of Obama.

Colorado’s Democratic Sen. Ken Salazar welcomed the caucus. “I am 100 percent behind Barack Obama,” he said, citing Obama’s pledge to reverse “the most failed foreign policy in the history of the United States.”

“What has George W. Bush done to our world?” Salazar demanded. “Is America safer today than it was eight years ago?” The crowd roared, “No!”

Cuban-American Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said the convention opens “on the edge of the Rockies and the edge of history.” The nation went 30 years without a Latino in the U.S. Senate after Sen. Joseph Montoya (D-N.M.) left office in 1977, he said. Now, hundreds of Latinos hold elective office and people of Latin American descent have won gains in all walks of life. Henry Cejudo, “son of an undocumented immigrant,” has just won a Gold Medal in wrestling at the Olympics, he noted.

Menendez branded as intolerable the raids on job sites and mass deportations of undocumented workers. “Let us tell everyone in this election season that we are not second class citizens,” he thundered.” This year we have a transformational opportunity. … More than 17 million Latinos are eligible to vote.”

He decried the Latino jobless rate, highest of any sector of the population, with Latinos also the highest percentage who lack health insurance. “I believe the road to the White House in this election comes through our communities. We must make Barack Obama the next president of the United States.”

Bridgette Davila, a professor of political science at San Francisco State University, was wearing a T-shirt she designed with the word “Obamanos” (Let’s “Obama”) stenciled on the front and the words “Latinos, Unidos por Obama” (Latinos United for Obama). “I think Obama is a leader for the 21st century,” she told the World. “His policies are going to do better not only for America in general but especially for Latinos: health care, the economy, education. His experience as a community organizer was really compelling to me because that is what I do.”

She praised Clinton’s speech. “I think she was very gracious and politically astute. It is everything I would have expected from a woman of her stature.”

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