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Has Mitt Romney given up on the Latino vote?

Mitt Romney chose Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate and Gov. Chris Christie as the convention keynote speaker. For now, he seems to have put Latino outreach on a back burner.

By Staff writer / August 14, 2012

US Sen. Marco Rubio (R) of Florida hugs Mitt Romney during a campaign stop in Miami on Monday.

J. Pat Carter/AP

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Washington

Mitt Romney, a white guy, has put another white guy, Rep. Paul Ryan, on the Republican ticket as his running mate. And on Tuesday, yet another white man – Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey – was given the coveted role of keynote speaker at the Republican National Convention later this month.

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To be sure, there will be plenty of ethnic and gender diversity on display at the Tampa, Fla., conclave. Home-state Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida will introduce Mr. Romney before his big acceptance speech on the final night. Gov. Susana Martinez of New Mexico will speak, as will Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina, who is Indian-American.

But having forgone a minority or a woman for the ticket, Romney has made another telling choice with a keynote speaker who is also neither – particularly in not selecting a Hispanic. Two people who could easily have filled the keynote slot were Senator Rubio and Senate candidate Ted Cruz of Texas, another rising Latino star in the GOP. 

After African-Americans, Hispanics are the largest minority voting bloc and crucial to both campaigns. Team Obama has given Hispanics prime roles at the Democratic National Convention in early September: Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles is chairman and Mayor Julian Castro of San Antonio is keynote speaker.

So has Romney given up on the Hispanic vote? Not necessarily, analysts say.

“I wouldn’t say that he’s written it off,” says Sylvia Manzano, senior analyst at Latino Decisions polling firm. 

Ms. Manzano notes that Romney’s first event Monday morning – the first business day since Ryan joined the ticket – was in a Cuban-American neighborhood in Miami, at a Latino-owned business. “That was a deliberate choice,” she says. “And the party has some high-profile Latinos speaking at the convention.”

But the fact remains that, in elevating Ryan and Christie, Romney has chosen to fill other needs besides outreach to Latino voters.

“The Ryan selection represented a realization on the part of Romney and his advisers that he couldn’t win the election by being Not Obama,” says Dan Schnur, a former Republican strategist who advised John McCain’s 2000 campaign.

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