Thursday, January 26, 2012

GOP hopefuls scramble for Florida Hispanic votes

The New York Times reports: The leading Republican candidates were appealing for the votes of South Florida’s Hispanic voters yesterday, with the campaigns of Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich skirmishing over an advertisement that branded Mr. Romney as anti-immigration.

The Spanish-language radio advertisement by the Gingrich campaign called Mr. Romney “the most anti-immigrant candidate” in the field. That drew a strong condemnation from Senator Marco Rubio, a Cuban-American who is remaining neutral in the race and who said in remarks to The Miami Herald that the advertisement was “inaccurate, inflammatory and doesn’t belong in this campaign.”

And Mr. Romney, addressing the commercial, called himself “pro-immigrant” in remarks before an event sponsored by Univision, the Spanish-language network. “It’s very sad for a candidate to resort to that kind of epithet,” he said.

The Gingrich campaign said it was pulling down the radio advertisement, because, Mr. Gingrich said, “I have great respect for Senator Rubio.” But the back-and-forth highlighted the scramble for votes among Hispanic voters, particularly the Cuban-Americans who are such a force in South Florida’s Republican politics.

People of Hispanic origin make up 22.5% of Florida’s population, compared with 16.3% of the United States population, according to census data from 2010. They tend to vote more with Republicans than elsewhere, although polls from 2008 show that President Obama picked up more than half the Hispanic votes in the state, a contrast to the 2004 election, when a majority sided with George W. Bush.

Mr. Romney, Mr. Gingrich and Rick Santorum all appeared at the Univision event, where Mr. Gingrich faced one of the toughest interviews of his campaign when questioned by Jorge Ramos of the network.

Mr. Ramos noted that in a poll released Wednesday by Univision, ABC News and Latino Decisions, in which Mr. Gingrich was matched against Mr. Obama, a vast majority of Hispanic voters chose Mr. Obama.

“You would lose the general election with these numbers,” he warned.

As the Republicans appealed for votes among Cuban-Americans and other Hispanics, one person who said he was not enamored of the field expressed his distaste: Fidel Castro, the retired Cuban leader whose 1959 takeover prompted the exodus of Cubans to South Florida.

“The selection of a Republican candidate for the presidency of this globalized and expansive empire is — and I mean this seriously — the greatest competition of idiocy and ignorance that has ever been,” he wrote in an opinion piece in state-owned news media. [Ed. note: It's a sad day when Fidel Castro is right on target]

More here.

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