Every Vote Counts – GOP Candidates Speak to Latinos in New Hampshire

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Newt Gingrich speaking at CPAC 2011. (Photo: Gage Skidmore/flickr)

Latinos make up a tiny fraction of the New Hampshire population–only 2.8 percent, according to the Census Bureau, versus 16.8 percent nationwide–but the Republican GOP candidates are fighting for every vote they can muster leading up to Tuesday’s primary.

On Sunday, Newt Gingrich held a rowdy campaign event at a Mexican restaurant in Manchester, where he spoke again about his controversial plan that would, among other things, provide legal residency for a small subset of undocumented immigrants who have been in the U.S. for 25 years and have strong community and family ties. The LA Times reported that a Latino man in the audience told Gingrich he’d have his vote if he promised to enact the plan within 100 days of taking the Oval Office. Gingrich did not answer directly and said the plan would have to be broken into many different bills in order to pass (translation: we’re not talking a comprehensive immigration reform bill).

The first Latino elected official in the state, Rep. Carlos Gonzalez (R), introduced Gingrich. The Washington Post reported that Gingrich’s staff distributed Spanish-language paraphernalia, including a card that listed  “10 reasons why Latinos should support Newt Gingrich for president.”

“I’m here because we really believe that we have an opportunity to pull together people of all backgrounds,” Gingrich said. “We particularly wanted to reach out to the Latino community, but also frankly, to all ethnic communities…It’s very important for us to make a case that we are in favor of many people, from many places, having the opportunity to become Americans—that this is truly a land of opportunity.”

Meanwhile, at the Rochester, New Hampshire, Opera House, Romney told the crowd that his father was born in Mexico–something he rarely mentions in public. Romney’s father, George, who ultimately became governor of Michigan, came to the U.S. when he was five, and Candidate Romney painted his life story as that of an immigrant living out the American Dream.  “We became a nation that attracted the innovators of the world,” Romney said. “It’s in our DNA, it’s who we are.” Univision reported:

But Romney hardly ever mentions his father’s roots in Mexico or the fact that he still has many distant relatives living in the country and it’s not surprising the subject does not come up more often. His family’s history there is controversial. Romney’s great-grandfather, Miles Park Romney, fled the U.S. to Mexico with a group of Mormons in 1885 to avoid anti-polygamy laws in America. And a Washington Post piece published in July detailed how his relatives have more open views on immigration than the former Massachusetts governor.

Every vote counts, as we saw in Iowa, where Romney won by eight little slips of paper. But realistically, the candidates are likely just practicing their talking points for Florida, the first state in the primary season that has a sizable Latino population.

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