The 2012 Republican National Convention is officially underway in Tampa… And in its quest to woo more Hispanic voters, the GOP is shining a spotlight on the Republican Party’s rising Latino stars, including Marco Rubio, the senator from Florida.
Currently fewer than three in 10 Latino voters prefer Mitt Romney to President Barack Obama. If Romney can’t expand that number in the next two and a half months, he’ll have to run up a large percentage of the white vote to win the presidential election come November.
In 2004, President George W. Bush received more than 40% of the Hispanic vote, and won a narrow re-election. Four years later, Senator John McCain received less than a third of Latino voters, and lost the race.
So the RNC and an array of groups—the Hispanic Leadership Conference, the Latino Coalition, the Libre Initiative—are sponsoring several parties and events dedicated to Latino themes, with a never-before-seen level of attention being placed on Hispanic issues.
Only eight people will deliver primetime speeches that will be carried live on all three national networks on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights. Three of them will be Hispanics: Lucé Vela, the first lady of Puerto Rico; Susana Martinez, the governor of New Mexico; and Rubio.
Rubio, whose parents immigrated to the U.S. from Cuba, has been given what could be considered the biggest assignment of all.
Rubio, who was named this spring as one of the most influential people in the world by Time magazine, will speak right before Romney takes the stage to accept his party’s nomination. In announcing his high-profile appearance, Romney campaign manager Matt Rhoads praised Sen. Rubio as “the future of the Republican Party.”
Meanwhile, Puerto Rico’s first lady Vela, a native of the island who attended college in Maryland, is scheduled to introduce Romney’s wife, Ann, at the convention on Tuesday night.
The high-profile post is a prime opportunity for Vela to introduce herself to Republicans — especially women and Hispanics — nationwide.
And finally, Martinez—the first Hispanic female governor in the U.S.—will take the stage before keynote speaker Gov. Chris Christie at the convention. The critical time slot, second only to that of the keynote speaker has been consistently reserved for the party’s up-and-coming talent – Mike Huckabee in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2004.
Other Latinos expected to speak at the convention include U.S. Senate nominee Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican and Tea Party favorite, and Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuño.