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John McCain and Barack Obama each to address major Latino gathering

June 9, 2008 | 12:42 pm

San Diego usually is a fine place to be under any circumstances, but for a couple of days this July the political world will flock there for clues about one of the crucial questions in the John McCain-Barack Obama matchup: Whither the Latino vote?

The National Council of La Raza, a leading Latino civil rights and advocacy organization, announced today that both presidential contenders have accepted invitations to speak at its July 12-15 convention in San Diego. No details yet on when each will speak, but their appearances likely will be among the most important they make during the month.

For Obama, the mission is straightforward: Woo an ethnic group that is absolutely essential to his hopes of carrying several key states in November but which heavily supported his rival, Hillary Clinton, during the just-completed Democratic primary season.

Presumably his campaign already will be hard at work on this task before the La Raza get-together, but his speech will offer him a golden opportunity to try to connect with a voting bloc that so far has generally resisted his appeals.

McCain will face more of a balancing act when he takes center stage ...

... at the convention.

As an Arizonan who last year was one of the few prominent Republicans on Capitol Hill pushing for controversial legislation that would have created a path to citizenship for most illegal immigrants in the nation, McCain is primed to build upon the inroads President Bush made four years ago in attracting Latino votes to the GOP banner.

But many conservatives who strongly opposed the 2007 immigration bill -- and whose turnout McCain needs on his behalf this fall -- will be listening carefully to his remarks. And it won't take much for them to renew their criticism of him on the immigration issue (witness this recent Michelle Malkin post).

-- Don Frederick

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