The Florida Vote And The Campaign Of The Absurd

First published in The Huffington Post, 02/12/2012


Tuesday was Florida’s big day under the sun. The 2012 GOP primary was the most important Latino event in this Republican presidential primary. And the last of them.

Yes, because, despite the sign in Newt Gingrich headquarters announcing «46 states to go,» in a Latino context, Florida was unique for Republicans, as home of the largest Republican voting bloc in the country, the Cuban-Americans of Miami-Dade County. From now on, the candidates will go to states where most Hispanics vote Democratic or not at all, and where stringent anti-immigration laws promoted by Republicans in recent years have been perceived primarily as acts of hostility and rejection.

When Polling company Latino Decisions asked Latinos last December, «Would you say the Republican Party is currently doing a good job of reaching out to Hispanics, that they don’t care too much about Hispanics, or that they are being hostile towards Hispanics,» 46 percent said, «They don’t care too much,» 27 percent answered they were being «downright hostile,» and only 17 percent answered they were doing a good job.

And now?

The next states with sizable Latino populations are Nevada and Colorado, each with about 20 percent. In Nevada (caucus vote on Saturday), Hispanics gave Obama a victory of 78 percent, 20 percent over McCain in 2008, versus a loss of 47 percent -51 percent among whites. Thus Latinos gave Obama Nevada’s five electoral votes with a victory of 55 percent to 43 percent.

As for Colorado’s nine electoral votes (caucus on Tuesday), Obama won these by 9 points, with 61 percent of the Latino and 50 percent of the white vote.

So, as far as the upcoming state elections go, and until further notification, don’t expect Mitt Romney to be «greeted by guitarists playing Guantanamera and carved roast pig» anytime soon…

…even though he may be greeted by the sound of mariachis playing La Cucaracha, and given tacos and tamales to eat — but be careful not to eat the tamales without first removing the corn husk like then-President Gerald Ford did in The Great Tamale Incident of April 1976.

Adios Marco Rubio

To be exact: adios, Vicepresidente Marco Rubio. I doubt we will hear more nonsense such as was heard in one of the latest debates, when both «frontrunner» candidates winked and hissed and whispered his name as one of the nation greatest and hinted — without uttering the words! – that Rubio will be the nominee’s candidate for vice president.

«I actually thought about Marco Rubio in a slightly more dignified and central role than being in the Cabinet, but that’s [indecipherable] another conversation,» Gingrich said amid cheers.

Why whisper? Why babble? Why not say it?
Because, frankly, did they really, really mean it?

Of course, making Rubio a VP candidate will secure for the GOP the Cuban-American vote in Miami-Dade County– but it has been Republican all along. As for non-Cuban Latinos, Marco Rubio is a big question mark.

According to a recent poll by the Pew Hispanic Center, Rubio is virtually unknown among Latinos:
53 percent of Latinos don’t know him, and an additional 15 percent do, but don’t like him. Among Republican Latinos there is not much of a difference — 40 percent say «¿Rubio? ¿Quien?,» and 15 percent say, «naaaaah.»

Awkward Moments #1: Self-deporting

In this campaign it was fun to see how two grown ups were doing their best to make Hispanics love them, while at the same time promising that if elected President, they will order the deportation of about 20 percent of them.

This contradiction led to some awkward moments during the campaign for the hearts of Republican Hispanic voters. For Romney, there was the «self-deported» solution for the illegal immigration problem. Of course, some bloggers saw a great opportunity in this. One announced he was self-deporting to Scotland on the 4th of July, following the discovery that his great grandfather arrived here illegally from Canada, and was sorry he wouldn’t be able to vote for Romney in November.

Always a guy with a great sense of humor, Gingrich mocked Romney’s plan. Here’s the transcript from his January 25th interview with Jorge Ramos from Univision.

JR: «What do you think about Romney’s idea of self-deportation?» [Laughter.]

NG: «I think you have to live in a world of Swiss bank accounts and Cayman Island accounts and automatic, you know, $20-million-a-year income with no work to have a fantasy this far from reality.»


And then he added: «For Romney to believe that somebody’s grandmother is going to be so cut off that she is going to self-deport… I mean this is an Obama-level fantasy.»

Awkward Moments #2: Abuelita stays and that’s final!

Gingrich must know something about Latino abuelitas, or grandmothers: his own solution to the illegal immigration problem has been to deport everyone except some of those who have been here for 20-25 years, have an American family sponsoring them, can prove that they paid their taxes, go to church, are reviewed by a local citizen board, … and, you know, we won’t automatically give them citizenship, no, but let them stay.

The idea was so patently created to show that he is better for Latinos and different from Romney, who supports a deportation-only «solution,» that nobody bought it.

Even Romney was able to counter with a sharp observation: «You know, our problem is not 11 million grandmothers.»

Awkward Moments #3: My dad was born in Mexico

At a very late point in the campaign, when both candidates were pandering to Latinos, Gingrich, in a now-defunct ad, accused Romney of being «anti-immigrant.»

Here is the Spanish language ad, with the Speaker saying at the end: «Soy Newt Gingrich, y apruebo este mensaje.» (I am Newt Gingrich and I approve this ad)

Pressure from local politicians, including Marco Rubio, led to the ad being removed.

But Romney took to heart. He got offended, and could hardly wait for the next debate, where called the ad «inexcusable» and «repulsive.»

Awkward Moments #4: El Cafecito

Of all moments, this is the one I wish I could have witnessed. Newt Gingrich visits a Cuban cafe. He is served a cup of strong Cuban coffee, which is, in my opinion, the best ever. While he drinks, people stare at him. He keeps drinking, though. It reminds me of when Mexicans add an excess of chile to my burrito and wait to see whether I choke.

But Gingrich didn’t choke. Too strong? Too sweet? His face was inscrutable. And when he finished the cafecito with a lot of pomp and fanfare, everybody cheered.

So, you cannot say they didn’t try to get into Latino issues. To really lure Hispanics, Romney said he’ll veto the DREAM Act, which would give some undocumented youth a path to legalization, and Gingrich said he’ll veto only half of it. Both promised English only in government. And to top that, both promised solemnly to kill 86-year-old Fidel Castro.

In that debate, even Dr. Ron Paul had to call their bluff and channeled them to come back from the past.

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