Romney & the Hispanic Vote in 2008

As most of the Republican presidential candidates look forward to Sunday’s Univision Presidential Forum at the University of Miami, a great deal of attention will deservingly be focused on the impact of the Hispanic vote in determining our next Republican nominee and President. Coming off two presidential elections in which President Bush made significant inroads with the Hispanic community, now the media, pundits and our opponents are doubting whether any GOP contender can continue this effort that began in 1972 with Richard Nixon’s “Spanish-Speaking Committee,” greatly expanded with Ronald Reagan and was then revived under Bush.

While I believe the candidates in this Republican field are fine gentlemen, many of whom I have known for years, I believe Mitt Romney would be our Party’s best ambassador to the rapidly growing Hispanic community.

First, I must admit that up until a couple of years ago, I only knew about Mitt Romney from what I had read and seen in the news. Following the advice of a good friend, I began to study his record before eventually meeting him. After many conversations and meetings with Romney, I determined that he is the best candidate to continue the Reagan tradition that has defined our party since I was a Reagan delegate in 1976 – a party built on strengthening our economy, our military and our families. Mitt Romney is a man of honor and integrity who shares my values, has the proven experience and competence to lead organizations, and can actually win the nomination and beat the Democrat nominee.


In addition to having the honor of co-chairing Mitt Romney’s campaign in Florida, I was also tasked with chairing his National Hispanic Steering Committee and expanding his base of support in the nation’s Hispanic community. Since the beginning, I knew this would be a challenge given Governor Romney’s initially low national name identification. He faced an especially larger challenge in the Hispanic community because, unlike his top competitors who hail from Hispanic-rich Arizona and New York, Massachusetts has a relatively small Hispanic population. As you’ll recall, the pioneers of our efforts also had some built-in advantages when they first ran – both Nixon and Reagan hailed from California, while both former President Bush (41) and the current President had deep Texas roots.

As expected, however, Mitt Romney and his campaign have invested the necessary time, effort and resources into introducing him to the Hispanic community and expanding his support. To summarize:

· In February, the campaign formed a LatinAmerica Policy Advisory Group to advise the Governor on hemispheric issues. Governor Romney has also actively spoken out about LatinAmerica, Cuba,Venezuela and the pending free trade agreements with Latin American nations.

· National Hispanic Steering Committee (it has since been expanded): Washington, D.C.

· Governor Romney's > Spanish-language website , which features a welcome video from his son Craig, was launched the week his campaign began and is still the only one of its kind in the Republican field.

· In March, his was the first campaign in either party to run a Spanish-language ad:

· second Spanish-language ad featuring his son Craig.

· He has conducted several Spanishmedia interviews with outlets like Univision, Telemundo and Azteca America,in addition to other TV, print and radio outlets. In fact, during thecampaign’s announcement week in February, one of the few interviews Gov.Romney did that week was with a Spanish media outlet.

· interviews and events in the Hispanic community.

· This summer, Mrs. Ann Romney addressed the annual dinner of Esperanza USA, a national organization of Hispanic clergy.

While the mainstream media has lambasted the Republican field as a whole for “ignoring” and “driving away” the Hispanic vote, Mitt Romney’s efforts have drawn praise. For instance:

  • “Despite these sentiments, some argue the GOP will recover. Once the primary elections are over, the nominee will ‘take a much more focused approach in reaching out’ to Hispanics, says Rafael Bejar, former director of Hispanic coalitions at the RNC. Already, two of the GOP candidates earn more favorable marks than their Republican peers among Latino politicos: Mitt Romney, who's got an energetic outreach effort led by Al Cardenas, the former chair of the Florida Republican Party; and McCain, who championed immigration reform in the Senate. It will be up to them to undo any damage their party has done.” (“Is GOP Erasing Gains It Made With Hispanics?” >Newsweek , 9/24/07)
  • · “Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney's campaign said he had a scheduling conflict with the proposed Republican Univision debate, but his campaign is in ‘regular contact with Univision about other opportunities in the future,’ said Alex Burgos, who handles Hispanic outreach for Romney. Burgos was quick to note that Romney was the first candidate from either party to run Spanish-language ads is the only G.O.P. candidate with a Hispanic steering committee and has an extensive Spanish-language website. Romney was also, notably, the only Republican candidate to put out a statement on the Democratic debate Sunday, contrasting his record with Democratic statements on taxes, health care, trade, relations with Latin America and abortion.” (“The Republicans Flunk Spanish,” Time, 9/11/07)

  • · “Senator Hillary Clinton and former Governor Mitt Romney each lead their opponents when it comes to the depth and strength of their current Hispanic voter outreach efforts. Both have competent Spanish-language sections on their website, both have aggressive Hispanic media relations efforts, both employ some heavy-duty Hispanic staff or strategists and both work with high-profile Latino surrogates. … Mitt Romney has sent his Spanish-speaking son Craig to South Florida several times. Craig has also voiced over the most recent of three Spanish-language radio ad campaigns that have aired in Miami. ‘You want to demonstrate to folks that you not only address the concerns that they have but you want to address those concerns in a language they speak,’ says Alex Castellanos senior advisor to the Romney campaign. … As for the Republicans, Romney is not yet facing much competition in his Hispanic voter outreach effort.” (“Clinton, Romney Top Hispanic Outreach Efforts,” La Politica, 11/5/07)

  • · Even The Miami Herald echoed La Politica’s assessment, writing, “The first edition's interesting mix of articles shows promise. It justly anoints Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Mitt Romney as the 2008 leaders in Hispanic outreach. Who would have imagined a major presidential contender like Romney giving interviews to Spanish-language outlet Azteca America, a corner grocer competing against the Wal-Mart of Univisión? And who would have imagined the son of a major presidential contender -- Romney's Spanish-speaking son, Craig -- praising mi papá on Spanish-language radio in Florida?” (“Net Newsletter Takes Pulse Of Hispanic Vote,” The Miami Herald, 11/10/07)


    Some might be asking why Republicans are participating in this Spanish-language event. The reality is that Univision is one of the nation’s most popular news networks, which regularly draws larger audiences than ABC, CBS and NBC. Spanish-language media is a popular source of information for millions of Hispanics and other Spanish-speaking Americans. While Mitt Romney believes English is essential for success in the United States, he also understands that there are millions of future voters whose impressions of the Republican Party are being shaped by Spanish news sources today. He believes it’s important to communicate his message through these mediums to current voters who depend on Univision for news, as well as future voters.


    For Governor Romney, Univision’s Forum will be a great opportunity to introduce himself to voters, share his views, outline his policies and explain how these will benefit all Americans, specifically the growing Hispanic community. Voters will have a chance to hear about his background as a successful businessman and at the Olympics. They will earn about his tenure as Governor of Massachusetts during which he cut taxes for families and businesses, enabled successful students to attend college tuition-free, signed into law landmark health care reform and defended traditional family values. They will also learn about the detailed policy solutions he has outlined on the following issues:


    As President, Romney will protect marriage, family and the sanctity of life. Our Party’s natural base of Hispanic evangelicals, churchgoers and social conservatives has been expanding since the2004 elections. On the issue of values, these voters will gravitate towards Mitt Romney because of his support for a Federal Marriage Amendment, a Human Life Amendment, his overall comfort discussing family values and his willingness to use the bully pulpit of the presidency to highlight their importance.


    On economic issues, they will learn about Romney’s pledge to make the Bush tax relief permanent, rollback tax rates for all taxpayers, abolish the death tax, make health care expenses tax deductible, oppose Social Security tax increases and make the corporate tax rate more competitive with the rest of the world. They will also have a chance to hear about his plan to allow the middle class to save tax-free by changing the tax rate on interest, capital gains and dividends to absolutely 0%.

    In the U.S. today, there are approximately 2.5 million Hispanic-owned businesses. By2010, they will continue their explosive growth and are expected to represent 1out of every 10 U.S. businesses. Mitt Romney’s extensive business background and understanding of the policies necessary for economic success will make him especially appealing to these Hispanic entrepreneurs and business owners.


    Hispanics serve with great honor and distinction in our nation’s armed forces. They deserve a Commander-in-Chief like Mitt Romney who understands a strong America requires a strong military that is well-equipped and takes care of our troops when they return home. In addition to pursuing policies that would increase defense spending and add 100,000 troops, Governor Romney has outlined policies that would improve access to higher education for military families.

    Latin America

    As the Miami Herald’s Andres Oppenheimer wrote after a July interview, “He knows Latin America better than most of his rivals …” Just as he has done throughout this campaign, Governor Romney will continue discussing his strategy to strengthen our relationships in Latin America and promote democracy in the region in the face of the Castro-Chavez threat. He will continue insisting on the immediate passage of the free trade agreements with Colombia, Peru and Panamas a way to strengthen our ties with these friends and allies. Speaking in Miami, the home of a large and predominantly Republican Cuban-American community, he will also stress that we will not weaken our policy on Cuba until the Castro regime is dismantled, all political prisoners are freed and a transition to free and fair elections takes place.

    Health Care

    With 47 million uninsured Americans, a group that includes13 million Hispanics, Governor Romney will be able to articulate his vision of healthcare reform that puts conservative, market-based principles to work in order to give every American access to affordable, portable and quality health insurance. On this issue, other candidates are sure to offer a broad array of prescriptions, but Governor Romney is the only one who has actually accomplished something to resolve this problem.


    With studies showing that 1 out of 3 Hispanic students do not graduate from high school, Romney will be able to highlight his ideas to remedy this alarming reality. As he has said time and time again, “ Closing the achievement gap in our schools is the civil rights issue of our time.” As President, he will promote school choice because when parents and kids are free to choose their school, everyone benefits. He will improve upon No Child Left Behind (NCLB)by giving states additional flexibility in measuring student performance. He will also honor teaching as the profession it truly is by supporting performance-based pay and other initiatives that encourage our best teachers to teach in our highest-need schools. He will re-focus our nation’s efforts on fields like math and science while promoting innovative approaches such as charter schools and public-private partnerships. Together, these initiatives will help ensure that America’s youth have the intellectual capital and skills they need to compete in the new global marketplace.

    By the end of the night, Univision’s audience will also be delighted to see that contrary to the media’s coverage, the Republican candidates have ideas about many other issues that affect their lives, not just immigration.


    Of course, immigration will come up. Governor Romney will be able to make clear what he believes and has campaigned on – that legal immigration is a great source of strength for America, but it cannot remain so if we as a nation do not stop illegal immigration. On Sunday, Mitt Romney will leave no doubt that he is not anti-immigrant. He will also be able to make this clear to one of the forum’s moderators, who in August wrote a column entitled, “The race of the anti-immigrants,” in which Romney was accused of“[embarking] upon a battle [with Giuliani] to determine which one is more anti-immigrant. … to make sure members of their party get the message that they are willing to go the extra mile to crush those illegals.’”

    Sunday night will allow Governor Romney to set the record straight. Immigration reform failed in 2006 and 2007. The next President will have to work within his own party to find consensus and demonstrate the ability to work across the aisle. On issue after issue, Governor Romney was able to do this in Massachusetts. I believe he can do the same for the nation.


    With the Hispanic community’s rapidly growing voting population, no presidential candidate of either party can win the White House without its support. In fact, it would be fair to say that President Bush would not be president today had he not carried 33 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2000 and over 40 percent in 2004. With many current voter registration drives successfully bringing new Hispanic voters into the political process, the next Republican presidential nominee will have to build on the gains achieved by President Bush. Here are several reasons why I believe Mitt Romney is the best-equipped candidate to achieve this:

    1. 2. VALUES: Romney’s values are evident in the life he has led – his marriage of 38 years, as a father of five sons and grandfather of 11 children. He will be a President all Americans can look up to.

    3. 4. RESOURCES& COMMITMENT: Mitt Romney has the political infrastructure in place to compete for the Hispanic vote in the primaries and the general. Democrats have woken up from their slumber and are ready to compete for the Hispanic vote again. A GOP candidate waiting until now or until the general to strenuously pursue this vote will find himself facing an uphill climb.


    In closing, I would respectfully urge my fellow conservatives and Hispanics to consider doing the following:

    1. Don’t let the media convince you that Republicans have abandoned the Hispanic vote. Democrats and others have long been dismissing the Republican Party’s progress with Hispanic voters. Largely because of Ronald Reagan, we have become a viable contender within the community. As we’ve seen over the last several elections, that relationship has grown stronger.
    2. Don’t allow anyone to brand our Party as “anti-immigrant” because we understand that strengthening our immigration system requires upholding the rule of law.
    3. Encourage people to actively participate in this election.
    4. Learn more about Mitt Romney at
    5. Encourage people to support the candidate who best represents their values. I am confident that candidate will be Mitt Romney.
    6. Recognize the dangers of conceding crucial GOP principles like opposing tax increases, defending the sanctity of life and upholding the rule of law.

    For several decades, the Hispanic community has proven to bean essential pillar of the Republican coalition. Our vote will help determine our nominee and ultimately our next President. I hope you’ll join me in this worthy effort by supporting Mitt Romney. Thank you for your consideration.

, 9/24/07)