Mitt Romney arrived at Conchita Foods, a family owned grocery wholesaler in Miami, Florida, Tuesday morning to gain support from Florida Republicans and increase his appeal to an important Latino voting block, South-Florida’s Cuban-American community. Romney also provided a glimpse on how he can win the Latino vote.
The Miami 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 win over the Cuban exile community which composes over 70% of Republicans in Miami-Dade County, the most populous county in Florida.
The Cuban-American vote is an important constituency group within the Florida Republican Party and has been a key for GOP candidates to win the nomination. 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 Florida’s GOP Primary by a margin of 97,000 votes (MAP). McCain’s Miami-Dade margin was 52,000 votes. The Florida win catapulted McCain to win the Republican nomination and ended Romney’s 2008 candidacy.
Now all four Cuban-American leaders have thrown their full support towards Mitt Romney for President, a positive step towards Romney’s chances to capture the nomination.
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 it’s 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.
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.
During Romney’s remarks on Tuesday 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 American relations are an important issue to Florida’s increasingly diverse Hispanic community, which includes large populations 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.
“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 hit the hardest by the recession. These dismal economic indicators, and Latino dissatisfaction with the Obama Administration, will be the major factors for Hispanic voters going into Election Day 2012. They also provide the Republican Party an opportunity to win over Latino voters.
Representative Mario Diaz-Balart said in a written statement that he’s backing Romney because “the world is a more secure place when America is leading boldly…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.”
- This post has been cross-posted at www.BettinaInclan.com . Bettina Inclan, is a Republican strategist, communications consultant, blogger and political commentator. She is an expert in Latino politics. Follow her on Twitter @BettinaInclan