While some Hispanics fret, GOP says outreach effort still on track in Florida despite staff change
Republicans this spring declared they were serious about Hispanic voters, and to much fanfare, the RNC rolled out a multi-state outreach effort. But we haven't heard a lot out of Florida since then -- and, it turns out, the outreach director in Orlando is no longer on board.
UPDATE: The RNC said Pablo Pantoja, who now works with the Libre Initiative, left more than a month ago and said he was replaced. Pantoja could not be reached. The Romney team was quick to push back saying there are about 13 people on the ground dedicated to the Hispanic vote.
“We have had a Hispanic outreach team in place in Florida for months working on an aggressive outreach effort across the state," said RNC spoekswoman Alexandra Franceschi. "With 47 Victory offices across the state, Florida is front and center in our grassroot efforts."
Still, the staffing turnover underscores growing concern among some Florida Hispanics that the RNC/Romney campaign has failed to follow through on its promise. Romney has done little Spanish language advertising, compared with fairly robust spending by the Obama campaign and there hasn't been much noise about grassroots activity.
Romney, who adopted hard-line immigration positions in the primaries, was never going to win the Hispanic vote but if he can cut into Obama's support a bit, it could be decisive in a close election. A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Telemundo poll shows Obama with a 63-to-28 percent lead among Hispanics. But the same poll reflected an enthusiasm gap that Romney might be able to turn to his advantage.
"The biggest problem Mitt Romney has with Hispanics is he’s not well known by the community and the little they do know, they aren't too crazy about," said Ana Navarro, a Florida Republican strategist who was a top adviser to John McCain in 2008. "Mitt Romney needs to introduce himself and make the sale with the Hispanic community if he’s hoping to be anywhere near the mid 30s (in polling). He's done very little so far."
Romney has some top-name surrogates, including George P. Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio. Yesterday, Craig Romney visited supporters in Miami. Romney himself was recently in Miami but he kept to his campaign script, passing up a chance to make a more direct connection with Hispanics.
The Romney campaign has said it would pick up spending after the primary, when more money is available. But as Navarro noted, "The clock is ticking."
Franceschi said the effort is running strong. "Nationally, we have Juntos Con Romney leadership teams in 15 states and a national steering committee that is 21-members strong. Since January, we have released 12 Spanish-language TV ads and web videos including various featuring Craig Romney, who is fluent in Spanish. We have bilingual volunteers making millions of voter contacts through bilingual phone banks, precinct walks, and community events across the country to energize the Hispanic community.”