National Republicans showed off some of the results of a Hispanic candidate recruitment drive during a packed-to-the-rafters blowout in Tampa's colorful latin community, Ybor City, during the Republican National Convention this past summer. The gala is called "Nuestra Noche", and the event took place at the historic Cuban Club.
To get to the huge ballroom, attendees wound their way up the Cuban Club's marble staircases, past velvet rope lines and security. On the way, they came to a patch of red carpet where they could pose for photos in front of a Republican banner.
"Excuse me sir! Are you going to keep that photograph forever? If I can find it. Hopefully, they'll drop it to my email address or something" says Lachlan Markay, a writer and reporter for the conservative Heritage Foundation.
Markay knows there is no winning without the Hispanic vote.
"We put a very big emphasis on conservative outreach to Hispanics. They are naturally of conservative inclination and that our message will really resonate with them. The sound of one's last name shouldn't determine one's politics."
Except for those different last names, Markay doesn’t see much difference between Hispanic voters and non-Hispanic voters. And neither does Laura Rigas, a spokeswoman for the American Conservative Union. She says the two groups are approachable on the same terms.
"Our Hispanic message is no different than our message to the rest of the country. Everybody's concerned about jobs and the economy."
But, desperately in need of Hispanic votes and political influence, the Republican State Leadership Committee developed a strategy. Committee president Chris Jankowski said it set out to find Hispanic candidates for legislative offices in Republican and swing districts all over the country, and it banked about a million dollars to help support their campaigns.
"We set out a goal over a year to recruit 100 new candidates of Hispanic descent to run as republicans in America. We've brought a few of them tonight"
Manuel Castaneda is running for the state legislature in Oregon in district 28.
The son of a poor Mexican family -- he herded goats as a child -- Castaneda came to the U-S at 14, got a lawnmower, started a landscaping business that branched into heavy construction work and now, as a business success, he's running for a state house seat in a politically mixed district that's about 10 percent Hispanic. He plans to campaign on traditional Republican values. But he says he'll get his Hispanic votes..by being Hispanic.
"And a lot or them are Democrats. we identify with them. I identify with them I'm an immigrant"
In the ballroom, major festivities. Two of the nation's three Hispanic governors -- Brian Sandoval of Nevada and Susana Martinez of New Mexico -- made brief speeches. And then, the big surprise of the night, three of Mitt Romney's five sons came to the stage, Tagg, Ben and Craig.
Craig, who learned fluent Spanish as a missionary in Chile, told the crowd "mi padre ha logrado mucho en su vida" He's also just released a radio ad in Spanish saying his father quote greatly values that we are a nation of immigrants ande it reminds voters that his grandfather was born in Mexico. The Romney campaign is hoping Hispanic voters will listen to this and forget the hard line Romney took on immigration during the primaries.