Mitt Romney with Cuban-American leaders in Miami, Florida
This morning Mitt Romney arrived at his event at Conchita Foods, a family owned grocery wholesaler in Miami, Florida, to gain support from Florida Republicans and increase his appeal to an important Latino voting block, South-Florida’s Cuban-American voters. Romney also provided a glimpse on how he can win the Latino vote.
The campaign stop trumpeted the endorsement of three major Cuban-American leaders - Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart and former Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart. It also highlighted the support of two former U.S. Senators, Mel Martinez and Connie Mack. The endorsement of the Cuban-American leaders serves as major boost for Romney as he tries to secure the Cuban exile community which compose over 70% of Republicans in Miami-Dade County.
Romney’s appearance at Conchita Foods gives us a glimpse on how the GOP front-runner will connect with Latino voters nationwide. Surrounded by cans of black beans and boxes of guava, he started his comments by reminding the audience that his father, George Romney, was born in Mexico and struggled economically before he became a successful American businessman and politician. The New York Times described Romney’s comments:
“You probably did not know that my dad was not born in this country — he was born in Mexico,” Mr. Romney said. “And at age 5- or 6-year-old, because of revolution in Mexico, my dad’s dad came back to the United States and began a construction business. Didn’t go so well, actually, not as well as Conchita has gone. He went bankrupt more than once.”
Moments later, Mr. Romney called a member of his own family, his youngest son, Craig, up on stage… A bit bashfully, Craig took the microphone and offered a few words in Spanish to the crowd, which applauded loudly…
In 2008 the Romney campaign had a strong Hispanic outreach strategy. His son Craig, who has lived in Chile and is fluent in Spanish, regularly spoke on his father’s behalf in Spanish to Hispanic media and audiences. The 2008 campaign included a Spanish-language communications team, a large team of bilingual surrogates and paid Spanish-language media.
GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney listens as his son, Craig, speaks Spanish to a crowd in Miami. (AP).
As the Florida GOP’s January 31st primary quickly approaches, be sure to expect a stronger Romney presence in Florida, in English and Spanish. Florida is a pivotal state in the race to secure the GOP nomination, but its even more important in Romney’s calculations. Today’s events are a clear indicator that Romney is playing to win Florida and to secure the crucial Latino Republican vote. (USA TODAY: Romney the 1st GOP candidate to plant flag in Fla.)
During Romney’s remarks he also discuss Latin America and attacked President Obama’s foreign policy, saying that the current president has “distanced himself from some of our best friends — Colombia, Israel.” Foreign policy and specifically Latin America relations are an important issue to Florida’s increasingly diverse Hispanic community, which includes large communities of Peruvians, Nicaraguans, Colombians and Venezuelans, among others.
Romney expressed the need for a strong America and picked up on a sentiment shared by many Hispanics in South Florida saying, “…Right now there’s huge changes going on in Latin America, right here so close to our home. The changes could lead in either direction, either positive or negative. This is not a time for us to retreat from our principles.”
According to the Tampa Tribune, Romney will discuss trade policy at the Port of Tampa later today, an important issue for Florida voters and the state’s Hispanic community
The media has focused on the issue of immigration, assuming it is the only way to connect with Latino voters. Yet, the number one issue for Latinos is not immigration, it’s the economy.
Representative Ros-Lehtinen said that she did not agree with Romney on the issue of immigration, but that she was willing to overlook that in these hard economic times. The NYT writes
“I’m never going to find a candidate with whom I agree 100 percent of time with 100 percent of the issues, but I think the election hinges on the economy,” [Ros-Lehtinen] said. “I don’t agree with Governor Romney’s position on immigration, but I agree with him solidly on the economy and for me, that’s the driving force in this election.”
Latinos are facing high unemployment, a record number of Hispanic children are living in poverty and Hispanic families have been the hardest the hardest by the recession. These dismal economic indicators, and Latino dissatisfaction with the Obama Administration, will be the major factors going into Election Day 2012. They also provide the GOP, and Romney, an opportunity to win over Latino voters.
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