Could Florida have a wild card? Several news stories are now suggesting that the Latino vote could save former Massachusetts Gov, Mitt Romney in Florida’s upcoming Presidential primary. And, indeed, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has an ad up that accuses Romney of being anti-immigrant in an effort to make inroads into that vote. But the latest is that Gingrich has pulled the ad after many of the state’s Latino politicians (including Republicans) denounced him for it.
The Christian Science Monitor puts it into perspective:
Mitt Romney has had precious little good news lately. But Latino voters in Florida may be coming to his rescue.
A poll released Wednesday shows that Mr. Romney, fighting to regain momentum toward the Republican presidential nomination, is performing well ahead of his top rival, Newt Gingrich, among Latino voters in the Sunshine State.
Eleven percent of likely Republican primary voters in Florida are Latino, and among them, 35 percent support Romney versus 20 percent for Mr. Gingrich, according to the poll by Latino Decisions for Univision News and ABC News. Twenty-one percent are undecided.
“Thus far, Gingrich’s shocking victory in Saturday’s South Carolina primary has not triggered a significant boost in his Latino support in Florida,” write Matthew Jaffe of ABC and Jordan Fabian of Univision. “In the final days of polling, Sunday and Monday, Gingrich’s Latino support in Florida only increased by 2 percentage points.”
Florida Republicans go to the polls next Tuesday in a crucial test for the party’s top two contenders. Florida is one of the biggest prizes on the primary calendar, with 50 GOP convention delegates at stake – all of whom will be awarded to next Tuesday’s winner.
Romney’s overall GOP primary numbers in Florida took a dive after South Carolina. Where once he was way ahead, it’s now a tight race. The latest poll, by the Florida Chamber of Commerce, shows Romney and Gingrich tied at 33 percent each. The Real Clear Politics average of five post-South Carolina polls shows Gingrich ahead by 4 percentage points.
And so Gingrich ran an ad.
Which he has now pulled after setting off a firestorm — among Latin politicians defending Romney.
Sen. Marco Rubio scolded Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign over a Spanish-language radio ad that accuses rival Mitt Romney of being “anti-immigrant.”
“This kind of language is more than just unfortunate. It’s inaccurate, inflammatory, and doesn’t belong in this campaign,” Rubio told The Miami Herald when asked about the ad.
“The truth is that neither of these two men is anti-immigrant,” Rubio said. “Both are pro-legal immigration and both have positive messages that play well in the Hispanic community.”
Not everyone appreciates talk radio style demonization, particularly when both Gingrich and Romney — as anyone who has followed them before they both got into a frantic race to see the most right-wing and tough on illegal immigrants in order to win over Tea Party and other conservative base types — were in their past incarnations thoughtful on the immigration issue.
By mid-day, Gingrich’s campaign said it would pull the radio ad out of “respect for the senator’s wishes.”
That’s a face saving way to get out of it. It lets the original content of the ad linger. No apologies for running something inaccurate or even a flat out lie.
About the same time, former Sen. Mel Martinez and a group of Hispanic leaders aligned with Romney in issuing a letter demanding Gingrich remove the ad.
“We respect Senator Rubio tremendously and will remove the ad from the rotation,” said Gingrich’s Florida campaign leader, Jose Mallea.
Earlier, Gingrich defended the ad during an interview at Univision where he attacked Romney as being too hardline and too unrealistic about immigration.
“He certainly shows no concern for the humanity of the people that are here,” Gingrich said.
Rubio’s sharp rebuke comes a day after he subtly corrected Gingrich for comparing Romney to former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, branded by conservatives as a turncoat who left the party before Rubio beat him in 2010.
Both Romney and Gingrich are in Miami on Wednesday for speeches about Cuba and Latin America.
If they’re both speaking on that, then Disney World can soon open up a new section: Panderland..
The criticisms from someone of Rubio’s stature in the Republican Party comes as polls show a near-even race, albeit with Gingrich surging.
Rubio plans to stay neutral in the race..
With former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s robust South Carolina primary win injecting a new uncertainty into the contest for the GOP presidential nomination, the campaign battleground now moves to Florida and Nevada – where Latinos, the nation’s fastest-growing electorate, wield increasing clout.
Even before his win, Gingrich’s campaign was competing hard for Latino support against GOP front-runner Mitt Romney.
The Gingrich team sent out Spanish-language e-mails to Cuban pro-democracy activists in Florida over the weekend and aired ads in Spanish attempting to define the former Massachusetts governor as anti-immigrant and too closely tied to Cuba’s leaders, brothers Fidel and Raul Castro. Romney’s campaign countered by pointing to a parade of high-profile Latino endorsers in Florida, which holds its primary Jan. 31. The Nevada caucus is next, on Feb. 4.
The aggressive competition highlights a challenge for the remaining GOP presidential field – Romney, Gingrich, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and Texas Rep. Ron Paul – which has tacked right on immigration issues while wrestling for conservative votes in primary contests.
The Republican National Committee, looking ahead to the general election, has begun a new offensive to woo the powerhouse Latino electorate, expected to top 12 million voters in 2012 – up more than 25 percent from 2008 when an estimated two-thirds voted for President Obama.
As long as Latino voters don’t turn on Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity or watch any of the non-Florida primary debates, it’ll have could have a chance.
But if any Latinos tune into the rhetoric, the RNC might consider putting its big bucks into more potentially successful efforts…