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Posted at 04:28 PM ET, 03/28/2011

Before Libya speech, Obama woos Latinos at town hall

The Obama administration continued to balance domestic and foreign policy Monday, with the president visiting a local high school and his aides defending the intervention in Libya.

At Bell Multicultural High School in Columbia Heights, the president wooed Latino voters in a town hall that was taped for Univision and will be aired on the network Monday evening.

“We’ve got to keep up the pressure on Congress” to pass the DREAM Act, Obama told an audience of teachers and parents, referring to a Democratic-supported bill that would provide citizenship to illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children and are now attending college or serving in the military. The measure, which Obama has long supported, was blocked by Senate Republicans in December.

The president mostly focused on serious issues on Monday, particularly the importance of education. But he also poked fun at the moderator of the forum, Jorge Ramos of Univision, who pressed the president on his technology use.

RAMOS: Do you have an iPad?

OBAMA: I do have an iPad.

RAMOS: Your own computer?

OBAMA: I’ve got my own computer.

RAMOS: Very well.

OBAMA: I mean, Jorge, I’m the president of the United States. You think I’ve got to go borrow somebody’s computer? “Hey, man, can I borrow your computer?”

Obama also told the audience that he will give the commencement address this spring at Miami Dade College, a school with a large Latino population in Florida, a key swing state. The event, while not billed as one for his 2012 campaign, could help the president appeal to a growing part of the electorate.

In 2008, Latinos overwhelmingly backed Obama over John McCain, 67 to 31 percent. But Obama has not accomplished a major goal of many Latino activists: a bill that would create a path to citizenship for the millions of Hispanics who live in the United States but do not have legal status.  

Still, he may be aided by the continued unpopularity of the GOP among Hispanics.  

Meanwhile, deputy national security adviser Denis McDonough, briefing reporters at the White House, would not provide a preview of Obama’s much-anticipated speech Monday evening on Libya. But he suggested that the address would not try to connect all of the events in the Middle East and North Africa over the past few months, focusing instead on explaining Obama's specific decision in Libya.

 “I think it’s very important that we see each of these instances, as the president has said since the beginning, in the region as unique; that obviously there are certain aspirations that are being voiced by each of these movements,” McDonough said. “But there’s no question that each of them is unique nationally, that each of them, frankly, is nationally motivated. It’s not an international thing by any means.”

By Perry Bacon Jr.  |  04:28 PM ET, 03/28/2011

 
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