Florida was once again driving the political conversation in the country this week with the NALEO conference. The meeting of Latino leaders in the heart of the I4 corridor was a taste of what could be expected in October when the region can potentially determine who the next President will be.
You had President Barack Obama and GOP nominee Mitt Romney speaking within 24 hours of each other and those in attendance would gauge enthusiasm for each of their campaigns.
Romney spoke first on Thursday and gave a thoughtful speech. He rolled out an outline for fixing the economy and even an early vision of what immigration reform would look like but he drew jeers for sticking to his guns and confirming that he would indeed repeal the President’s Healthcare plan (Obamacare) on his first day in office. The Democrat leaning audience gave him modest reviews.
The President rolled into town on Friday. He stormed into the Disney Contemporary Resort and used the basics of effective public speaking on quickly got the audience. He used humor and spoke the language to get the crowd on his side. He identified an enemy for the conference to point at, when he started talking about House Republicans and painted them as a body who didn’t want the Dream Act or any opportunities for immigrants and closed with “Si, se puede” or “Yes, we can” and rolled out of town with reassurance that bypassing Congress and letting aspects of the DREAM through was a sharp political tactic.
Yes, that decision was a political tactic. What? Did you think that was a coincidence?
Immigration is valuable political currency and if Florida Senator Marco Rubio hadn’t pointed that out, it might have been overlooked entirely.
Rubio spoke on the same day of the conference and reminded those in attendance that Republicans were indeed looking for solutions and that the President’s decision last week was part of the DREAM act alternative Rubio has been pushing for, for months.
On a stage that should have been his to convince and inspire, Rubio was left doing touch-up work on what Romney didn’t get done the day before.
Then there was former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who reminded those in attendance why he was so popular during his time in office and why he remains popular with Latino voters.
He spoke about education and sincere concern for the Hispanic community. Prepared and thoughtful, Bush left the conference with positive reviews as well.
So where does this leave Mitt? It leaves him at the bottom of the hill with Florida voters and it will take valiant efforts by both Rubio and Bush to get him anywhere with Hispanics in Florida.
It’s unsure if what their roles would be. Bush has gone on national television and said he would refuse, even if his country needed him. Rubio’s VP chatter has put him on the back burner of candidates if not off the stove completely. Both could run in ’16 if they want to. This leaves them with roles as regional surrogates with their abilities confined to Florida.
It was suppose to be an Obama/Romney preview this week. Instead we’re reminded how much we wanted Obama/Bush or a Biden/Rubio contest instead.