Romney assembles Latino backers: “Juntos con Romney”
Romney is looking to ramp up his Latino outreach efforts, the list provides another reminder of his tough immigration stance.
By JORDAN FABIAN
Mitt Romney on Wednesday rolled out his national Hispanic Leadership Team, another sign that the presumptive Republican nominee is upping his efforts to court Latino voters.
The group of 21 current and former public officials, including several Bush administration veterans, is titled “Juntos con Romney” (Together with Romney). It’s led by former Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, former Small Business Administration administrator Hector Barreto, and former Puerto Rican justice chief Jose Fuentes.
While the group lacks the Latino star power of President Obama’s list of national co-chairs, which includes Hollywood stars such as Eva Longoria, it contains some political intrigue. Freshman Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R), a potential vice presidential nominee, was named as an honorary co-chair.
“The Hispanic community cannot afford four more years of double-digit unemployment and higher levels of poverty,” Rubio said in a statement. “Mitt Romney will stop the attacks on job creators, encourage entrepreneurs to chase their dreams, and bring good jobs and a better future to all Americans.”
Several other up-and-coming Latino Republicans were also named as honorary co-chairs: Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuno. All have received vice presidential buzz during the campaign.
For practical purposes, members of Romney’s Hispanic Leadership Team will serve as his squad of surrogates in Spanish-language media and on Latino issues. Symbolically, it’s another sign that Romney is beginning to ramp up his efforts to court Latino voters, who side heavily with Obama.
Romney has translated several of his television and web ads into Spanish and he recently delivered two campaign speeches in Washington, D.C. and Texas aimed at Latinos. The former Massachusetts governor’s overtures to Latinos have primarily relied on his economic message, that Obama is to blame for high unemployment, but they have sidestepped the issue of immigration, which is the source of much of Romney’s struggles with Latinos.
In fact, several members of Romney’s leadership team are on the opposite side of the issue from Romney.
Gutierrez and others worked to pass comprehensive immigration reform under President George W. Bush. Three current and former lawmakers on the list (Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and the Diaz-Balart brothers) have voted for the most recent version of the DREAM Act, which Romney pledged to veto in late December, and another co-sponsored it in 2009 (Mel Martinez).
Two others have directly criticized Romney’s hard-line approach to the immigration issue. In March, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) urged Romney to “change the tone” on immigration away from his crackdown-only rhetoric. Just last month, Gov. Martinez mocked Romney’s plan encourage undocumented immigrants to “self-deport” via tough enforcement measures.
“‘Self-deport?’ What the heck does that mean?” she said in an interview with Newsweek.
“Unfortunately for Governor Romney, an advisory council can’t etch-a-sketch away his extreme positions on the issues that matter to Hispanic families,” said Obama campaign Hispanic press director Gabriela Domenzain. “He is the most extrme presidential candidate we’ve seen on immigration, with positions so out of touch with the mainstream that even members of his Hispanic advisory council have criticized him.”
Romney assembled a separate Hispanic steering committee in late January before the Florida GOP primary, though significant overlap exists between the groups.
Secretary Carlos Gutierrez
Honorary Co-Chairmen And Co-Chairwomen:
Gov. Luis Fortuño (Puerto Rico)
Gov. Brian Sandoval (NV)
Gov. Susana Martinez (NM)
Sen. Marco Rubio (FL)
National Advisory Board:
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL)
Former Sen. Mel Martinez (FL)
Former Gov. Jeb Bush (FL)
Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA)
Former Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (FL)
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (FL)
Rep. Raul Labrador (ID)
Rep. Quico Canseco (TX)
Former Interior Secretary and Former Rep. Manuel Lujan (NM)
State Rep. Anitere Flores (FL)
George P. Bush