Campaigning for the veteran vote is another underlying theme in the coming six weeks, but some Latino veterans are still at odds on who they want as their commander in chief.
It depends on whom you ask.
For Jess Quintero, a veteran who served in the army and Air Force during the Cold War, Romney might be better apt to deal with the looming foreign policy crisis.
“From a world view perspective, we’re better off with a new person,” Quintero said. Quintero is the president of the Hispanic War Veterans of America.
“I think we have to give Romney a chance because it appears that Obama is taking kind of the middle of the road on almost everything and trying to appease different sides when there are times you can not appease, you got to take action,” he said.
The congressional super committee failed to come up with a solution on $1.2 trillion in spending cuts last year and primarily the reason why automatic cuts are likely to go into effect if nothing is resolved after the November election. Romney pounced on the opportunity to talk about the president’s failure to prevent the potential cuts to the defense budget on Thursday, while he was campaigning in Virginia.
“It is still a troubled and dangerous world, and the idea of cutting our military commitment by a trillion dollars over this decade is unthinkable and devastating. And when I become president of the United States, we will stop it. I will not cut our commitment to our military,” Romney told a crowd of veterans at the American Legion Hall in Virginia.
Recent polls show that Romney is leading against Obama in terms of the veteran vote in battleground states such as Ohio, Florida and Virginia. A Marist/NBC/Wall Street Journal poll had Romney leading in Florida with 58 percent versus Obama’s 38 percent.
A high turnout demographic is the young veteran vote. A diverse group Obama is trying to win over, which includes Latinos. Politico recently cited that there are nearly one million each in North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia, while an estimated 1.6 million veterans reside in Florida.
On the campaign trail the president is reminding veterans of the death of Osama Bin Laden, ending the war in Iraq and closing in on the war in Afghanistan.
The new generation of veterans might also find consensus with the president than the older generation, who tend to be more conservative. Supporters also say the veteran vote is representative of the country’s changing demographic. More Latinos side with the president.
Mark Cardenas, who served with the Arizona National Guard in Iraq, from August, 2006 to October, 2007, said he worked at a Veteran Center and noticed first hand the shift in both administrations. Cardenas currently works for VoteVets.org.
He went on to credit the president’s championing of the “GI Bill for the 21st Century.” A bill that expands education benefits to post 9-11 veterans and provides a housing stipend. As a rebuttal against the suicide rate among veterans, Cardenas touted the president’s implementation of a “stand down” day where the average soldier is informed of the behavioral options available to them.
“When I returned from Iraq, we were all pushed into the VA system where it seemed as if we were being rushed through in order for them to make space for another vet,” he said. “At the Vet Center, each vet was treated as a human being.”
Alberto Gonzalez, president of the American GI Forum, said with the conversations he’s had with Latino veterans, it seems they’re more inclined for Obama. Gonzalez says he doesn’t support Romney because he doesn’t trust his policy proposals on the economy. He pointed to the omission Romney made during the Republican National Convention by not mentioning Afghanistan troops.
Not everyone perceives it the same way. For one critic the Obama administration lags in recruiting Hispanic representatives to manage veteran issues across the board. Quintero added that the president is not in touch with the needs of Hispanic veterans and lags spanish speaking representatives in veteran hospitals and federal agencies.
“The White House needs to have a Hispanic veteran representative in order to truly address our issues,” he said. “At the Department of Veterans Affairs, there is a position that is called the Hispanic Employment Program Manager who is a non-Hispanic, I mean what kind of slap in the face is that?”
Still, as with the rest of the demographic the stagnant economy has left Iraq and Afghanistan veterans struggling with unemployment, which to them reigns as priority.
Tom Perez, an Iraqi war veteran, doesn’t affiliate with either party. He did not vote for Obama in 2008 and won’t for him this time around. He said he isn’t going to cast a vote for Romney either.
“I don’t like either of them,” Perez said.
Both of them have not served and he doesn’t trust Romney because he has flip flopped on his positions. Perez who lives in Pensacola, Florida struggled to find a job and until he recently started his own business.
“It’s all image. We created as many jobs for vets, no you didn’t. I couldn’t get a job and I had to open my own business,” said Perez.”You didn’t create any jobs.”