Republican presidential frontrunner Newt Gingrich has hired U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio's former campaign chief to be his Florida director.
Jose Mallea, who has ties to former Gov. Jeb Bush's political machine as well as Miami City Hall, brings Gingrich's campaign a wealth of connections to Florida Republicans and Miami-Dade County's Hispanic community. Mallea also is a co-owner of the Local Craft Food & Drink in Coral Gables.
Mallea's hiring has an immediate benefit for Gingrich: The name "Rubio" winds up in the same headlines as "Gingrich."
Rubio, a vice presidential shortlister and conservative star, isn't playing favorites in the race. And there's no sign he's subtly favoring Gingrich, who helped the former Florida House speaker publish his "100 Innovative Ideas for Florida's Future."
Mallea's hiring follows a big push by Gingrich to reach out to the Hispanic community, which can be pivotal in Florida, the most important swing state in the nation. About 72 percent of Miami-Dade's Republicans are Hispanic, like Mallea.
Gingrich earlier Sunday began plugging a Spanish-language website, newtpresidente.com.
"At the end of the day, Florida is important, and so is the Hispanic vote. Hispanics aren't just a crucial part of the electorate, they're part of the cultural fiber that makes Florida one of the most dynamic states in the nation," Mallea said.
"Newt understands that," he said. "And he understands what every American wants: economic opportunity and prosperity."