Ybor City, Fla.- At one of the high-profile Republican convention evening soirees, titled “Nuestra Noche” (Our Night), Mitt Romney’s son spoke about the importance of the Latino vote in pretty good Spanish. He was followed by the sweet salsa sounds of Cuban entertainer Willy Chirino.
“We definitely need the Hispanic vote and we want to win it,” said Craig Romney to reporters at the event, held at the Cuban Club, with a bust of Jose Marti prominently displayed in the historic building’s front. “I think on Thursday when my Dad talks people will be able to listen to his ideas and the direction of the country – and I think they will see he is a man of faith and honesty,” said the young Romney.
Craig Romney has definitely emerged as one of his father’s most powerful “Latino” weapons. The engaging young Romney, who learned Spanish while doing missionary work in Chile, has been prominently featured in his father’s Spanish-language campaign ads. In the last ad he talks of his grandfather’s birth in Mexico and of his father’s admiration and support for immigrants.
And in a sign of how the political parties recognize the changing demographic landscape, the GOP “Nuestra Noche” event was organized by the American Conservative Union and the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC). Chris Jankowski, RSCL’s president, says a big part of their group’s focus is on what they call the future majority.
“We took our expertise and record in electing Republicans to state legislative offices, and decided to recruit Hispanic candidates to run as Republicans in entry-level state office,” explains Jankowski. ”We don’t know who the next Marco Rubio is, so we’re going to try to fill the bench as much as possible,” Jankowski says. ”We’ve exceeded our goal of over 100 new Hispanic candidates running for office,” he adds.
The group says Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval, who started out as attorney general, is an example of this strategy. Both Sandoval and Martinez made a brief appearance at the event, and spoke to cheers on how Latinos are natural conservatives and an integral part of the GOP.
Peterson Vazquez, from the Rochester area in upstate New York, hopes to become one more Republican Hispanic legislator. Vazquez explains he grew up poor, and when he got out of the military as a single father, he noticed his city of Rochester had not gotten any better. He decided to run for the state assembly, and the Republican party appeals to him.
“What attracts me is the hard work ethic, as well as the social part too — adhering to Christian values, and everything with it,” says Vazquez.
Teri Galvez, a Republican delegate from Washington D.C., takes issue with “this whole idea that we are anti-immigrant and anti-women-that is something that is very fabricated,” she says. ”My parents came from Mexico – my Dad came through the bracero program – and as a conservative, pro-life, Mexican-American woman, I think the party represents me.”
As high-profile Hispanics take center stage on Tuesday, it is the party’s hope that more Latinos think like Galvez, despite the poll numbers showing growing support for President Obama.