Marco Rubio revs up Latinos for Romney

The Colorado Statesman

Although she’s perfectly happy with Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan — and will have the chance to cast a momentous Electoral College vote for him if the Romney-Ryan ticket carries Colorado, as one of the state’s nine GOP electors — in her heart of hearts, Vera Ortegon admits she would have loved the chance to vote for the man she introduced to a cheering crowd at the National Western Complex in Denver on Wednesday.

“I was so very proud, as a Latina, that they chose a Latino to be the one to introduce the next president of the United States,” said Ortegon, a Columbia-born biologist and small business owner who also chairs the Pueblo County Republican Party. “What an honor for Marco Rubio to do that.”

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio tells a crowd of supporters, “Big government doesn’t help the middle class, it buries the middle class,” at a rally on Oct. 3 at the National Western Complex in Denver.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

Ortegon, who attended the Republican National Convention this summer and witnessed the Florida senator nominate Mitt Romney, said she had been struck in particular by some of Rubio’s words. “He said that his father worked very hard for many years behind the bars, in the back of the room so maybe, one day, he will stand in the front of the room, behind that podium.”

Former Pueblo Councilwoman Vera Ortegon introduces Florida Sen. Marco Rubio at a rally on Oct. 3.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

Welcoming the rising Republican star — who topped speculative lists of potential running mates for Mitt Romney before Ryan was named in August — in both English and Spanish, Ortegon added to the dozens of “Juntos con Romney” supporters, “I have to say it in both languages. We are bilingual proud here, you know!”

Democrats for Romney mingle with Juntos con Romney — an organization of the Republican’s Hispanic backers — at a rally featuring Florida Sen. Marco Rubio on Oct. 3.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

Then, bounding to the stage amid jubilant applause, the boyish Rubio opened his brisk speech by quoting the Democrat that Republicans love to spotlight.

“Over the last four years, the middle class got buried,” he said with a grin, and then added, “Those aren’t my words. Those happen to be the words of the distinguished vice president of the United States, Joe Biden. In a brief moment of clarity, he just told us what we already knew.”

“The policies imposed by President Obama on the United States haven’t worked anywhere in the world they’ve been tried. They are the policies people come here to get away from,” said the son of Cuban immigrants.

In particular, he said, big-government, burdensome policies harm the middle class, Rubio said, not so much corporations and billionaires. “They may not like it,” he said, “but they can deal with it.” But Americans without vast resources — without an army of lawyers and accountants at hand — can be stymied by too many regulations if they want to start or expand a small business, he said.

“The great news is, it doesn’t have to be this way and it can change pretty fast.” The answer, he said, is as simple as electing a new president.

A Romney presidency, said Rubio, who has been a prominent surrogate for the Republican ticket in recent weeks, would mean a simpler and more predictable tax code, more sensible regulations, a replacement for the president’s signature health care law, and a vigorous energy policy. “You would see a recovery unlike anything America or the world has ever seen,” he promised. “Americans are still as creative, as hard working as they every have been. All we need is a government that can make it easier for us to get ahead.”

Rubio assured the crowd that the upcoming election isn’t just a choice between a Republican and a Democrat or between Romney and Barack Obama.

“It’s a referendum on our identity as a nation,” he said. “In America, we never wonder where you came from or where you started in life, because we believe that everyone has rights given to them not by politicians but by God. And among those rights is the opportunity to go as far as your talents can take you.”

Colorado Hispanic Republicans member Pauline Olvera called Rubio “a fabulous role model for the Hispanic community” and predicted that surveys showing Obama leading Romney by nearly 3-to-1 among Hispanic voters would swing the other way before the election.

“The polls are showing that we are closing that gap,” she said. “What we’re doing is taking the message out that Republican principles align much more directly with our Hispanic community values, and our Hispanic community values are in direct conflict with Democrat platform ideals. When they hear our message, it connects.” She added that “faith, family and individual freedom” were the keys to swaying Hispanic voters.

“We have very strong faith in our community, and Democrats had a little dispute about having God in their platform,” Olvera said. “Also individual freedom. We are hard workers, we are entrepreneurs, we get our pride and our dignity from individual hard work, which helps elevate our community.”

She dismissed the possibility that Hispanic voters might credit Obama for his executive order making it possible for children of undocumented immigrants to get temporary reprieves from deportation, calling the move — which circumvented Congress — the kind of “dictatorial, top-down imposition” that many have fled foreign lands to avoid. In addition, she said, citing high unemployment rates among Hispanic citizens, “Obama’s thinking he’s going to give this community of Hispanics jobs when we can’t get jobs? It just doesn’t make sense. It’s obvious it was a pandering ploy.”

Ernest@coloradostatesman.com