June 24th, 2011
12:34 PM ET
Washington (CNN)- It is one of the most influential voting blocks and key to the 2012 presidential election, but President Obama's popularity continues to decline among Hispanic and Latino voters and now the president is facing criticism for once again skipping a major Latino convention.
The annual conference of NALEO, The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, is being held this weekend inSan Antonio,Texas. For the third year in a row, the president declined to speak at the conference. The White House says it's simply a scheduling issue and the president cannot make it to every conference he would like to attend.
But Latino leaders, even members of the president's own party, are critical of the administration's lack of leadership in crafting a comprehensive immigration reform policy. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, (D) IL Friday told CNN, "I supported this president and I want to see him re-elected."
Gutierrez said he was with then-Senator Obama when he first addressed NALEO. Obama promised he would be back when he was elected president and would sign comprehensive immigration reform at the conference. Immigration reform has been stalled, but Gutierrez says Obama's no-show hurts, "So understand that symbolism is very important," Gutierrez said.
White House spokesman Luis Miranda told CNN in a written statement, "The scope of the President's efforts on behalf of Latinos and all Americans is not defined by his participation at one event, but rather by the work carried out every single day to put our economy back on track and spur job creation, improve access to health care, strengthen education, and reform our immigration system so that it meets America's 21st century needs."
The White House has accepted an invitation to speak at The National Council of La Raza (NCLR) convention inWashington,DClater in July.
Gutierrez says the lack of immigration reform has resulted in polls showing the president's popularity declining among Latino voters. "[W]e can reverse that decline if we bring together some really crucial public policies which he can initiate," Gutierrez told CNN.
In fact a CNN/ Opinion research Poll shows the president's approval rating among Hispanic Americans steadily falling from a high of 76% in 2009 to 67% in 2010 and 63% just this month. It's worth noting that the 63% approval rating among Hispanic Americans is still higher than the president's overall approval rating which hovers just around 50%.
In addition the Hispanic and Latino vote in 2012 will be absolutely crucial in major swing states likeFlorida, and also inNew Mexico,ColoradoandNevadawhich have extremely large and growing Hispanic populations. The National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO) predicts more than 12 million Hispanic Americans will vote in next year’s elections.
With additional reporting from Paul Steinhauser