By Moni Basu and Cindy Y. Rodriguez, CNN
(CNN) –President Barack Obama admitted to Spanish-language network Univision Thursday that his greatest failure was the lack of comprehensive immigration reform, but many Latino voters said the president still has their vote.
Co-host Jorge Ramos, a strong advocate for comprehensive reform, kept after Obama to acknowledge that he had not made good on his campaign pledges. For pushing the president so hard, Ramos earned kudos from Dylan Byers of Politico, who wrote:
"It's difficult to imagine a Brian Williams or a Bob Schieffer looking President Obama in the eye and saying, 'You promised that, and a promise is a promise. And with all due respect, you didn’t keep that promise.' Indeed, it's the sort of move most moderators avoid at all costs. And yet, it's the very question Ramos asked of Obama."
Ramos, Byers wrote, has chutzpah. But perhaps more importantly, he anchors for Univision, the network for this campaign's coveted Latino demographic.
Obama admitted he was sidetracked on immigration reform but said the economy had to take precedence. He also blamed Republicans in Congress.
"Jorge, as you remind me, my biggest failure is that we haven't gotten comprehensive immigration reform done," he said. "But it's not for lack of trying or desire."
CNN correspondent Rafael Romo questioned whether Obama would have made such a strong admission in any other forum.
"I wonder if he would have said a different thing if he had been speaking in the middle of a debate," Romo said.
Later, Ramos' co-host, Maria Elena Salinas, grilled Obama on the 1.5 million deportations under his watch.
Obama followed opponent Mitt Romney, who spoke Wednesday in another "Meet the Candidates" forum hosted by Univision.
Obama still draws strong support from Latino voters. The latest Gallup Pollshows him with a 66% to 26% lead among registered Hispanic voters. And given Romney's remarks about self-deportations and winning the presidency more easily had he been Latino, many observers say it's doubtful that Obama's admission will have a significant impact.
Latina blogger Elianne Ramos said Obama came across as sincere because he owned up to not having passed comprehensive immigration reform. She said she was proud of Univision for pushing so hard on an issue that is important to the Latino community.
"He wasn’t necessarily trying to gloss the answer over," Ramos said.
Tequila Party founder Dee Dee Garcia, however, said Jorge Ramos’ questioning wasn't fair.
She said Obama delivered on deferred deportations for the children of illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as minors.
“So he did tackle immigration reform,” said Garcia, who was a Republican for 20 years and voted for George W. Bush. The Tequila Party was her answer to the Tea Party, which she blames for heightened opposition to immigration.
Others reacted on Univision’s Facebook page:
“At least we know that he doesn’t want to deport children of undocumented immigrants that came to the U.S. at a very young age,” said commenter Liliana Salazar Mutzelburg.
Commenter Mercedes Bonilla-Barrera said: “He [Obama] convinced me during his convention but tonight he left me with some doubts but at least he didn’t skew away from answering any questions.”
Another commenter, Maripaz Chavez, urged Latinos to give Obama more time to accomplish what he promised. “He stands by Hispanics and without us there is no future so let’s stick with our president and we will we see results in the future, okay?” Chavez said.
Some thought the Univision anchors were being tough because people know them to be advocates of immigration reform.
Others thought their colors showed.
“Tonight Marie Elena Salinas was more content than the other night,” said Lissette Oramas, a Facebook commenter. “She was too happy and it was embarrassing because she is a journalist and she should remain neutral.”
Salinas told CNN Friday that Obama’s remarks resonated.
“It’s important that in this particular forum he admitted he was a failure,” she said.
Freelance blogger and journalist Sara Ines Calderon said Univision succeeded in holding the president accountable.
“Obama did back peddle a bit on his promises but we [Americans] should know what the executive branch can and cannot do,” she said.“We should know what our politicians are and aren’t capable of but they shouldn’t make promises they can’t deliver on.”
Perhaps Obama should have pushed harder with Republican lawmakers, she said.
“At the end of the day, we need to think about which one of the candidates can deliver,” she said.
Still, Latinos are concerned about many of the same things as the general electorate, with the economy atop the list.
Said one CNN commenter, Malty17: "Obama is promising the world to everyone … . Romney 2012 if Latinos are serious about job growth."
What did you think of Obama's remarks on Univision? Let us know.