John McCain’s campaign scheduled a conference call to discuss Barack Obama’s comments to the National Council of La Raza  — which Michelle Malkin noted in a post earlier today. The campaign presented Rosario Marin, former U.S. Treasurer, as its surrogate on the call.

Marin says the campaign expects Obama to say that McCain has changed his mind on immigration reform, and that nothing could be further from the truth.  Congress has failed to fix the problems of illegal immigration for 24 years, but McCain was one of the only members to attempt a bipartisan reform.  Barack Obama was part of the problem, casting votes that unraveled the bipartisan compromise. Obama hasn’t shown any leadership or any effort to risk his standing in order to solve the problem, as McCain has.

McCain understands that the American people overwhelmingly want the borders secured first, and McCain will support this before any other reforms take place.   But he will also work across the aisle to complete a comprehensive immigration reform after the border has been secured.

Questions:

  • Given McCain’s record on immigration, why hasn’t he gained more traction among Latinos? — Party registration is higher for Democrats among Latinos, but there are a large number of undecideds (26%).  The Latinos who know his record support him, and the ones who don’t are less likely to do so.  Communication is the key.
  • Me – What does border security mean, and will he tell La Raza that border security comes first? — Marin says he says this repeatedly.  The campaign says that he and Lindsey Graham have already set up these parameters — 700 miles of border fencing (and other points as well), and the added measure of border-state governors certifying that it has been secured before proceeding with the rest of his reform efforts.
  • Why hasn’t he done a better job of communicating? — Marin says that he has done a very good job, but the polling has been somewhat faulty.  In Arizona, he got more than 70% of the Latino vote in his re-election to the Senate.  Marin also emphasizes the importance of winning the independents.
  • Where are the strengths of Obama and McCain in the subdemographics of Latinos, and how important is immigration to Latinos as opposed to other issues like health care?  The Latino community cannot be put in a neat little box.  There are Latinos who have been Americans for generations, and recent immigrants, and people who come from a variety of nations.   Immigration is a key for Latinos, though, as a bellwether for political credibility.  Obama was “AWOL” on immigration until the presidential campaign.
  • What will be the priorities of the elements of reform?  McCain has shown a proven record on immigration, whereas Obama has only given talk.  McCain has also made clear he will do it in steps: border security comes first.  Afterwards, he will work with both parties to determine the priority of the rest of the elements of reform.  “The American people are tired of all of the partisanship”.  McCain can bring people together, and did so at great political peril — which shows the courage he has and the risks to his own career that he will take to do what he sees as right.

Interesting call.  The message of “borders first” has clearly been heard by Team McCain, and one wonders whether the recent addition of Steve Schmidt hasn’t brought a little more focus to that position.  Marin repeated it over and over again, and although we haven’t seen the remarks to La Raza yet, the campaign is pushing that hard.

Update: Don’t miss The Other McCain’s coverage of the call.