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Villaraigosa Pick Shows Importance of Latinos in Election

Jerod Harris/Getty Images for BGR(LOS ANGELES) -- If ever there was a sign of how crucial the Latino vote will be in the upcoming presidential election, look no further than the fact that Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has been tapped as the chairman of the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

An estimated 12.2 million Latinos will vote in the election, according to projections from the National Association of Latino Elected Officials, a 26-percent increase from 2008. They are the nation’s fastest-growing voting bloc.

“I will be reaching out to Latino voters,” Villaraigosa said on a conference call Wednesday. “There’s a benefit to being bilingual.”

Latinos tend to side with Democrats. They backed Obama by a 2-1 margin in 2008, but Obama has failed to enact comprehensive immigration reforms in his three years as president despite promising to do so during the campaign. Coupled with the nation’s economic struggles, that could be enough for some Latinos to side with Republicans this fall. It will come as comfort to the White House, though, that in recent polls Obama has maintained huge leads among Latino voters.

To date Villaraigosa has been a trusted surrogate for Obama, ripping into his possible Republican rivals in the past few weeks. In an appearance on CNN late last month, Villaraigosa claimed that the GOP candidates have veered so far to the right in an effort to secure their party’s nomination that in the process they have alienated Latinos.

“When it comes to policies and actions, it’s the president who has helped to create 2 million jobs that Latinos have right now, 6 million overall with the Recovery Act, so it’s not just immigration,” Villaraigosa said. “I would agree with respect to rhetoric, however, that some of that divisive polarizing rhetoric that you see and hear in the Republican debates are turning off a lot of voters, including a lot of Latino voters.”

According to a poll released last month by ABC News and Univision, registered Latino voters nationwide would back Obama over GOP front-runner Mitt Romney 67 percent to 25 percent. At a speech last Wednesday in Washington, Villaraigosa ripped Romney as “a presidential candidate who has abandoned immigration reform and instead advocates self-deportation.”

The DNC is planning to release a video from Villaraigosa in Spanish, although it has yet to be posted on their website.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio