The Latino vote: 7 questions on Mitt Romney and Hispanic outreach

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    Mitt Romney’s campaign is spearheading its own initiative to acquaint Latinos with the Massachusetts governor by “cutting through the clutter” before November. With an estimated 51 percent of Hispanic voters identifying as independents, according to a recent USA Today/Gallup poll, the Latino vote is still in full swing.

    Latino Vote Mitt Romney Barack Obama

    In a May interview, New Yorkers Francisco Echeverry and his daughter Janet said they have many things in common: they like to go to the beach, watch Spanish language television news and talk to their parrot Roberto. But when it comes to voting they could not be more different. Echeverry, 73, a Colombian immigrant who became a U.S. citizen in 1983, plans to vote for Mitt Romney in November, while Janet, his U.S.- born daughter supports President Barack Obama. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

    That is precisely why the Juntos con Romney initiative, the Hispanic Steering Committee for Republican nominee Mitt Romney, is positioning itself in key battleground states to launch a series of messages that counters Obama’s reelection campaign.

    “A lot of Latinos are just getting to know who Mitt Romney is and really that’s what our efforts on the Hispanic Steering Committee are really all about,” Hector Barreto, a National Chairman of the “Juntos con Romneycommittee, told VOXXI.

    “It’s really making sure that we get information out and introduce Mitt Romney in the most effective way possible to garner the support he’s going to need to win this election,” Barreto said. “They know all about Obama. I believe they’re going to be looking for an alternative.”

    And “Juntos Con Romney” is trying to give it to them. Barreto said they have gotten good feedback about the Spanish-language TV ads that feature the candidate’s son, who speaks fluently, and plan to do more in key markets.

    “We have a number of people who will be out campaigning and doing interviews. A lot of these individuals are very respected Latinos, so I think we’re going to do okay on that,” he added. “The truth is that a lot of people who haven’t decided are not going to decide until after the convention, after they see the debates.”

    VOXXI had the opportunity to ask Barreto 7 questions about his efforts and the Romney campaign’s outreach to the Latino vote.

    Mitt Romney Hispanic outreach Latino Vote

    Craig Romney introduces his father, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, in Spanish, last January as he campaigns at The Hispanic Leadership Network’s Lunch at Doral Golf Resort and Spa in Miami, FL. Craig has become his father’s personal translator, explaining in skillful Spanish in targeted TV ads that his dad is a man “con grandes convicciones,” or “with strong beliefs.”(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

    VOXXI: The Latino Coalition you’re involved with represents Latino businesses. Approximately how many and can you provide any insight of how they perceive Romney’s initiative to gain their appeal?

    Barreto: “We do represent Hispanic businesses and many of our network organizations are chambers of commerce. We also have folks that are interested in education and health care. Those are the top three issues in the Hispanic community from our perspective. We have 1.2 million Hispanic businesses in our database that we communicate with on a regular basis. We meet with small business groups around the country and we hope to set up small business roundtables in Fort Worth, Texas. We’ll be doing more of those things. The Latino Coalition is putting together a couple of events at the GOP convention. It’s a good opportunity to work with the governor and other Hispanic leaders.”

    VOXXI: How did you become involved with Mitt Romney’s campaign?

    Barreto: “I’ve known the Governor for a number of years. I’ve worked with him when I was the administrator of the small business administration. One of the areas that we worked on was regulatory fairness. I met with him the last time he ran for president and when he decided to run again, he contacted me and asked me to help. I decided to get involved in the campaign this time.”

    VOXXI: What does Juntos con Romney hope to accomplish and how does this initiative differentiate itself from Obama’s outreach strategy?

    Barreto: Obviously, we put together a very stellar leadership team. Our objective is to advise the campaign on issues that are important to the Hispanic community to bring in additional leaders to be part of that steering committee and volunteer. We want to raise resources so that we can do Hispanic outreach and advertising.

    “I think there are a lot of Democratic leaders who are disappointed with the president and the administration. They feel like he made a lot of promises that he didn’t keep. One of the things that we’re doing is we’re bringing in people from the community. We have a top liaison in the campaign to coordinate on Hispanic outreach. Mitt Romney’s national Hispanic director is a Latino named Joshua Baca. We have other Hispanics, some of them working with the RNC, and so those are going to be very important as well as the leaders that we have in some of these steering committees. We’re very focused on states like Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, Florida and Virginia, and those are going to be key states.”

    VOXXI: Can you explain more specifically how this will be implemented on the ground?

    Barreto: “I think there’s going to be a number of different states we’re going to deal with in the campaign. Obviously, nothing replaces people talking one on one. We’re going to do a lot of work at the grassroots level. I know the Republican National Committee has a lot of people stationed on the ground. They’re working hand in hand with the Romney campaign. They hired a number of Hispanic leaders to work in some of these key markets. You may have been aware that in the last couple of cycles, the Republican Party has done a phenomenal job on their ground game. In the past, Republicans were not well known for organizing the way that Democrats do. Over the past cycles, Republicans have done a better job at getting out-the-vote. We believe are voters are energized, they’re going to participate, and the difference is that Obama is going to have a difficult time getting the same turnout that he got the last time from a number of groups he’s going to need to win.”

    VOXXI: Recently, an article highlighted a growing Latino conservative movement in the states. How do you think this will play out in the election and in the long-term?

    Juntos Con Romney Naitonal Chairman Hector Barreto in a 2010 interview with Businessmakers.

    “You can call Obama and his administration a lot of things, but one of them is not conservative. I think that for people of faith, they’re going to be looking for somebody that protects their rights. I think that Hispanics are people that care about their families. There are a number of Hispanic organizations that have started like the Lideres Initiative. I think you’re going to see more of that.”

    VOXXI: Reports highlight that Obama’s campaign is reaching out to Hispanic donors, but doesn’t have the same backing as Romney’s SUPER Pacs. Romney seems to be outperforming Obama in terms of campaign fundraising. Is this a fair assessment?

    Barreto: “At the beginning of the campaign, everyone was saying that President Obama was going to raise a billion dollars and blow everybody out of the water. President Obama is having trouble raising money and one of the reasons he’s having trouble raising money is because a lot of the businesses that gave him money last time will not give him money this time.

    “I think both campaigns are going to have plenty of money. It’s been unfortunate that Obama has spent something like $100 million dollars over the last couple of months trying to destroy Romney, but he hasn’t moved a needle at all. They’re basically still tied and Romney has not spent the same amount of money. We’ve gone very far for hope and change. All he represents is confusion and recession.

    VOXXI: Despite criticism to the contrary, is Mitt Romney connecting with Latinos?

    Barreto: “He’s connecting well and I think he’s going to connect even better as the campaign goes along. I think he brings a lot to the table. Obviously, he’s been a leader in every level of public and private sector including non-profits for decades. He’s a self-made businessman. He was an effective governor and was able to lower the unemployment rate in that state to five percent. I think what Latinos see is a record of accomplishments and more importantly values that they embrace: Values about entrepreneurship, values around faith, personal responsibility, strong national security, private sector solutions, living within your mean. I think that they’re going to be important to the Hispanic voter.

    “I believe the governor, especially in these core states, will be able to receive a respectable amount of support. There was a poll that came out that showed that 51 percent of Hispanics consider themselves to be independent voters. That is another opportunity we believe the Romney campaign can go after.

    “Those folks that never made a decision or are not really connected to either party.”

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