The headliners at the NCLR conference this weekend are United States Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder. Big names, to be sure.
But it looks sort of like a B list when compared to the speakers at another Latino leaders’ powwow just a couple of weeks ago.
Both President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney spoke to those gathered at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officers in speeches that were televised live and written about in all the major media outlets for days.
Why aren’t the two candidates in an election that everyone says could hinge on the Latino vote going to address the audience of what many consider the oldest, largest and most influential Hispanics civil rights organization in the country?
I asked one of the head honchos at NCLR if they felt like the red-headed stepchild because of the apparent snub. I had to ask twice. The first time, the person I talked to — who has to be a cheerleader and doesn’t want to highlight this gaping hole — ignored the question and glossed over it, answering others. The second time, he just ignored the question.
He should have said something about their busy schedules and the fact that both candidates are sending representatives. But maybe he’s still a little hurt.
For the POTUS, it is about timing, apparently.
“At the end of the day, it’s a scheduling issue,” said Juan Sepulveda, senior advisor of Hispanic Affairs for the Democratic National Committee. “We worked hard to make sure we got the VP.”
Obama made time for the NCLR conference last year, where he argued that there was little he could do on Hispanic issues, such as immigration reform and unemployment, without the support of the Republicans in Congress. What a difference a year makes, eh? Especially an election year. But that year, NCLR leaders met in Washington, so maybe he was able to pencil it in.
“The conferences are so important because you have Latino leaders come in from so many different states, you can have fantastic meetings, and it saves time,” Sepulveda told VOXXI. “But we are trying to get others from the White House and administration” to fill in when the president can’t make it, he added.
Thus Biden. Which is like wanting Justin Bieber and getting Mick Jagger. No, wait, he’s just old. He’s still A list. It’s like wanting Justin Bieber and getting Clay Aiken.
Romney’s people did not get back to me after several attempts to find out why he was skipping La Raza – where the participation will likely be even more Democrat than NALEO’s Latino political convention in Orlando. But someone did mention that he is sending his designated Hispanic: former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez, who has been all over TV lately ripping Obama’s immigration policy because, well, because it just sounds better when a Gutierrez does it.
But maybe it’s timing also. Romney is scheduled to be in Houston next week for the NAACP convention – another stop that, according to reports, Obama will skip. Does Mitt think he has more chance with the black vote than the Latino vote?
Or maybe it’s something else.
Romney surely felt like a fish out of water at NALEO, even though there were a bunch of Florida and Texas Republicans there to buffer the mostly Democrat crowd and make sure he got a lukewarm reception. People like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), whose name is widely floated as a potential VP nominee, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and former U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez. All friends if not fishing buddies.
But NCLR is a different — much bluer, if you will — fishbowl. This is not really Romney Country.
Just look at some of the other notable speakers at the four-day convention, attended by thousands: Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a rising Democratic Party star who is chairman of the Democratic National Convention in September; media mogul Nely Galán, who has given more than $10,000 in contributions to Democrat candidates since last year; actor Tony Plana, a volunteer spokesman for a national immigration reform movement; and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, who, well, who works in Obama’s cabinet.
Oh, and national labor leader Richard Louis Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO. Yeah, I know. Who?
My point exactly.