Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney grabbed an edge in the Sunshine State Tuesday, as his campaign announced three major endorsements from the Cuban-American community in South Florida.
While other GOP candidates campaigned in earlier primary states, like Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, Romney made a stop in Florida on Tuesday. A swing state with a relatively large population, Florida will be an important win in the general election. But for Romney, a primary win in Florida—the fourth state to hold its primary next year—could also help him lock up the GOP nomination contest early, giving him the opportunity to focus the bulk of his 2012 campaign on President Obama.
Florida Republican Reps. Ileana Ros Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart, and former Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, are joining Romney's foreign policy team, his campaign announced. Though all three supported Arizona Sen. John McCain in the 2008 Republican primary, they appeared on board with Romney's recent foreign policy perspectives and his criticism of President Obama's approach to global leadership.
"The world is a more secure place when America is leading boldly," said Mario Diaz-Balart in a press release. "We need a president who won't apologize for America, but will work to secure free markets, economic opportunity, and human rights for all people around the world. Mitt Romney is that leader who will make America stronger and more respected in the world."
The three politicians carry extra weight with the Cuban-American community in South Florida, an important conservative voting bloc within the Republican Party. But it's not clear whether these endorsements would help him with the diverse Latino community as a whole, especially if he's up against President Obama in a general election.
According to the Miami Herald, Romney played up his Latin roots in his Florida speech, telling the crowd that his grandfather came to the United States from Mexico.
However, Romney—who says he favors "legal immigration" and condemns amnesty—could lose support from pro-immigration voters within the community.
On the issue of immigration, he differs with the three Cuban-American lawmakers, who have supported legislation like the controversial Dream Act in the past. Yet, that tension could work to Romney's advantage if their support convinces Latino voters that his immigration views are forgivable for the sake of the economy, the No. 1 issue for many in the community.
"There is no perfect candidate," Ros Lehtinen said Tuesday. "We have some disagreements about some things. But what's important is jobs."
Despite these endorsements, and another from former Florida Sen. Mel Martinez, Romney won't be getting a primary nod from perhaps the most influential political heavyweight in the state, Sen. Marco Rubio, who says he won't be endorsing any candidate in the primary.