President Barack Obama's re-election campaign reached out Monday to Nevada Hispanics to promote passage of "La regla de Buffett."
That's the so-called Buffett Rule named for billionaire businessman Warren Buffett. The proposed law would increase the income tax rate on millionaires to 30 percent.
A week before the U.S. Senate is set to vote on the Buffett Rule, California Rep. Xavier Becerra visited Las Vegas to do a round of interviews with Latino TV, radio and newspaper outlets to argue the president's case. The bilingual lawmaker also traveled to Colorado, which, like Nevada, is an election battleground state with a heavy Hispanic population.
In Las Vegas, Becerra chatted with Latino media outlets such as Univision, Telemundo, El Tiempo and El Mundo, according to the campaign.
He argued that Obama's goal is to make the tax system fairer so that millionaires and billionaires don't pay far lower tax rates than America's working middle class.
In an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Becerra said the Obama campaign is targeting Latinos because Hispanics are among Americans affected most.
"Most of the folks who are stuck right in the middle of the income scales are Latinos," he said. "They tend to populate the middle class and modest income brackets in the United States."
Hispanics also helped Obama win Nevada in 2008 as he earned about three-quarters of the Latino vote here. He'll need them to turn out for him again in 2012 to win re-election.
The Obama campaign is making a big push in Nevada and nationwide this week to promote the proposal to raise taxes on the rich as a way to raise revenues and cut the deficit.
The campaign launched a "Buffett Rule" website on Monday to show people how it works. On its home page, it shows the middle-class tax rate at 20 percent, while the 400 wealthiest Americans are paying an average rate of 18 percent. The website allows users to "apply the Buffett Rule" with the click of a mouse, pushing the tax rate for the rich up to 30 percent.
Becerra said that about 1,500 millionaires and billionaires didn't pay any income taxes at all, according to 2009 data.
If the Buffett Rule passed, it would raise $47 billion over 10 years, according to the Obama campaign.
"It is real money," Becerra said.
The Republican National Committee, however, argues that raising the tax rate for millionaires would add only $1.1 billion in federal revenues in the coming year and would barely make a dent in the estimated $1.2 trillion budget deficit Obama is expected to run up at the same time.
"Instead of presenting serious plans to reduce the deficit and get Americans back to work, today President Obama and his surrogates once again resorted to more gimmicks and campaign politics that continue to dampen our economic recovery," said Darren Littell, RNC spokesman.
Alexandria Franceschi, the RNC's Hispanic media spokeswoman, said it's telling that Obama's campaign is targeting Latinos, including in Nevada.
"He's been struggling with the Hispanic community," Franceschi said. "Unemployment with the Hispanic community is 2 (percentage) points higher and jobs and the economy are the number one issue for them. They're struggling in this economy, so Obama is very worried."
Republicans, too, have been wooing Hispanics in Nevada, where they're a growing force at the ballot box.
RNC Chairman Reince Preibus visited Las Vegas a couple of weeks ago and took time out to do an interview with Univision as well. A conservative, pro-business Hispanic group also held a conference in Las Vegas last week. Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval, Nevada's first Hispanic governor, delivered the keynote address.
Although Mitt Romney has yet to lock up the GOP presidential nomination, the sharp battle over the Buffett Rule makes it clear the general election is underway.
On Monday, the RNC also launched an anti-Obama video on the Web, making the case the president hasn't delivered on his promise of "hope" and "change."
"Four years later, we know it was all an act," the RNC said in releasing the video that shows clips of Obama, the 2008 candidate, accusing his GOP opponents of attack politics. "And since President Obama has no record to run on, he's resorted to using the same negative scare tactics he once claimed to be against."
Obama's campaign manager Jim Messina sent an email to supporters on Monday, setting up the fight over the Buffett Rule.
"While some middle-class families struggle to get by, Mitt Romney wants to give $5 trillion in tax cuts slanted toward millionaires and billionaires while gutting Social Security and Medicare," Messina wrote. "The Buffett Rule is just one way the president is fighting to level the playing field. That's what this campaign is all about."