This week Norm Coleman, Chairman of the Congressional Leadership Fund joined the Christian Monitor Breakfast for a conversation with reporters. The former U.S. Senator discussed Republican outreach to Hispanic voters and the tone of the immigration debate.

Colman, is very involved with the Hispanic Leadership Network, a national organization aimed at connecting with Hispanic voters. The group is an initiative of the American Action Network, which is headed by Coleman.

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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.

Romney speaking at Florida's Republican National Hispanic Assembly conference

Mitt Romney picked up a major endorsement from three prominent Latino Republicans in Florida. The GOP Presidential frontrunner won the support of Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart and his brother, former Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart.

The approval from the three Cuban-American leaders is a huge boost for Romney and can help him further appeal to Hispanics and especially Cuban-Americans in Florida. It is a sign of Romney’s strength going into the Florida Primary, scheduled for January 31.

The endorsement from the Cuban-American leaders is an indicator that Romney will make a big push to win Cuban-Americans and Hispanic voters in Florida. Miami-Dade is Florida’s largest and most-Hispanic county. According to the Miami Herald, Hispanic voters, nearly all of whom are of Cuban descent, account for 72 percent of the roughly 368,000 registered Republicans in the county.

The Cuban-American vote is a vital constituency group for Florida Republicans and has been a key for GOP candidates to win the nomination. A fact Romney, and all the GOP candidates are well aware of. In 2008 Senator John McCain obtained the endorsements of Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Mel Martinez. McCain went on to win the Florida’s GOP Primary by a margin of 97,000 votes. McCain’s Miami-Dade margin: 52,000. The Florida win catapulted McCain to win the nomination and ended Romney’s candidacy.

Now all four Cuban-American leaders have thrown their full support towards Mitt Romney.  That equates to major good news for Romney’s chances to capture the nomination.

Make no doubt about it, the Latino leaders will be on Florida’s spanish-language radio and television promoting their candidate to Hispanic voters statewide. They will make the case, that in this economy, the nation needs a leader with Romney’s economic credentials.

According to the Miami Herald:

“…[Mel] Martinez said he was backing Romney because he is the candidate with the best record and the best chance of beating President Barack Obama.

“I understand Mitt Romney to be a fair-minded, decent person,” Martinez said. “I’m not concerned about what may be some difference in nuances.”

Representative Diaz-Balart said in a written statement that he’s backing Romney because “we need a president who won’t apologize for America, but will work to secure free markets, economic opportunity, and human rights for all people around the world. Mitt Romney is that leader who will make America stronger and more respected in the world.”

In case you missed it….a quick round-up of top headlines focusing on the GOP and the Latino Vote

  • NEW HAMPSHIRE UNION LEADER: An Editorial: For President, Newt Gingrich
    Newt Gingrich, received the coveted endorsement of The New Hampshire Union Leader editorial board. The endorsement from one of the country’s most important conservative publications gives the surging former Speaker of the House another shot in the arm in the Republican presidential contest. The editorial states, that while Gingrich isn’t the perfect candidate, his ideas set him apart from his GOP rivals.

    “…America is at a crucial crossroads. It is not going to be enough to merely replace Barack Obama next year. We are in critical need of the innovative, forward-looking strategy and positive leadership that Gingrich has shown he is capable of providing…”

GOP Presidential candidate Rick Perry received the endorsement of Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The Maricopa County Arizona sheriff billed as “America’s Toughest Sheriff” for his reputation as a tough enforcer of Arizona’s controversial laws against illegal immigration publicly endorsed the Texas Governor’s bid for President.

“…Arpaio’s backing for Perry, first reported by NBC News could help the Texas governor among conservative voters concerned with illegal immigration.

Arpaio who bills himself as “America’s Toughest Sheriff” has built a reputation as a tough enforcer of Arizona’s controversial laws against illegal immigration.

The sheriff who has shown interest in running for president or an Arizona Senate seat in the past has been courted by GOP hopefuls. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and businessman Herman Cain have both visited him in hopes of gaining his endorsement…”

Happy Thanksgiving!!

This was my first Thanksgiving outside of Miami and away from my very loud and lively Latin family. But, that didn’t stop me from bringing a little Miami to my California Thanksgiving. My mother came to visit for the long holiday weekend, and as usual, brought enough Latin spice and pizzazz that I could recreate South Beach in my living room.

The exciting (and nerve wrecking) part of this Thanksgiving, was that I had to make all the food (with a little help from mom). It was quite adventure. One that I documented, at least for its comedic factor. Here are some photos from the international gastronomical odyssey.

As I wrote in Part One, this Thanksgiving meal featured standard American favorites and  with homage to our Cuban-Mexican-Spanish-Italian-Irish heritages.

The making if the Italian meat stuffing, a tradition in my boyfriends family, was in itself an adventure. The hand-held meat grinder I bought to grind up all the meat didn’t work. It literally dissembled in my hands. So, I used some technology, my electronic food processor. This made grinding the ham, salami, pepperoni, eggs, cheese and crackers a breeze.
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After tweaking the recipe and cooking for several hours I made a crispy authentic Italian stuffing. Pictures were sent to his family in Boston and met with approval. I was proud of my culinary achievement.

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Next up, the pavo…. bring on the guajalote.

I started working on the turkey on Wednesday night placing it in a very Cuban marinade which I bought at the local Mexican grocery store. See Part One. This was my first turkey and with help from mom, it came out great!!

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Thanksgiving is one of my favorite days of the year. Its a great American holiday honoring our nation’s history and the diversity of its people, via food!!!

This will be my first Thanksgiving in which I have to make the whole meal, including the Turkey!! I hope I can wake up my inner Chef Peppin!

Our Thanksgiving menu honors the diversity of all of our guest: A Cuban vegetarian, an Italian-Irish New Englander and a Cuban-Mexican on a diet. The menu:

  • Turkey (Cuban Style)
  • Italian Meat Stuffing
  • Biscuits
  • Stuffed Mushrooms
  • Baked Sweet Potato Casserole
  • Butternut Squash Soup
  • Green Beans
  • Black Beans & Rice (Congri)
  • Mom’s Pumpkin Pie

Here goes my first attempt to make a turkey/ Pavo/ guajalote. Recipe below

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My brother said it was the most Cuban looking turkey he has ever seen. Saying all it needed was a Guayberra for the turkey!

Thank’s to Cubanfoodmarket.com for the recipe for Congri stuffed Turkey: