Why Florida's Latino Republicans tilt toward Mitt Romney
The question of who wins Florida's Republican Latino vote could determine who wins the Florida primary Tuesday. Polls show Mitt Romney in front, but Newt Gingrich is not out of it.
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Gingrich has proposed a “citizen panel” to review the cases of longtime illegal immigrants who have a family or a sponsor and who, he says, should be allowed to get residency.Skip to next paragraph
Gallery Repeat contender: Mitt Romney
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Gingrich has also expressed support for a modified version of the DREAM Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for young undocumented immigrants brought to this country by their parents. Gingrich says he would sign such legislation only if it required military service. Playing catchup, Romney later said he would agree to the same provision.
Some conference attendees remain undecided in the Republican primary – and can make a case for either Romney or Gingrich.
Romney is strong among Latino Republicans, “because he was a very inclusive governor of Massachusetts,” says Mark Garces, a lawyer from central Florida who is undecided in the primary. “Romney is a proven leader with business acumen. The Hispanic community here is very diverse, but if there’s one thing that drives them, it’s hard work.”
And the case for Gingrich? “Proven leadership and the ability to articulate conservative ideas,” says Mr. Garces. “The Contract with America precipitated a generation of change in the 1990s.”
Four years ago, Florida’s top Cuban-American politicians backed John McCain, who went on to win the Republican nomination. Now they’re in Romney’s camp.
New to the national political scene since 2008 is Florida’s junior senator, Marco Rubio (R). He has conspicuously not issued an endorsement, but he did come to Romney’s defense on Wednesday over a Spanish-language radio ad Gingrich had aired calling Romney “the most anti-immigration candidate.”
Senator Rubio called the ad “inaccurate” and “inflammatory,” and Gingrich stopped running it. Rubio is often mentioned as a potential running mate for the GOP ticket.
Romney was the first Republican this cycle to go up with a Spanish-language TV ad in Florida, narrated by his son Craig, who is fluent in Spanish. At the Hispanic conference on Friday, Craig Romney introduced his father in Spanish, calling him a man of faith and integrity.
The other two Republicans still in the race, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum, are trailing badly in Florida polls. Congressman Paul of Texas is not competing in Tuesday’s primary. Mr. Santorum, a former senator from Pennsylvania, won the endorsement of the Latin Builders Association in Miami on Friday, after addressing the group and telling the story of his Italian immigrant grandfather. He is heading to Pennsylvania Saturday to do his taxes, then returning to Florida on Sunday.
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