Editor's note: Ana Navarro, a Republican strategist and commentator, served as national Hispanic campaign chairwoman for John McCain in 2008 and national Hispanic co-chair for Jon Huntsman's 2012 campaign. Follow her on Twitter @ananavarro.
By Ana Navarro, CNN Contributor
(CNN) - There is a new level of intensity in the courting of the Hispanic vote, and it culminated last week in two Univision Candidate Forums, one with Gov. Mitt Romney and one with President Barack Obama.
But before I get to that, there's the issue of the secretly recorded videotape of Romney's remarks at a fundraiser earlier this year, where he was caught on camera saying it would have been helpful if he were Latino. This election cycle, we have seen political operatives perfect the art of feigned outrage. After the video was released, Democrats pounced on the remark, calling it offensive and insulting.
The question regarding Romney possibly having Mexican heritage has come up before. Romney's father was born in a colony of American Mormons in Mexico and soon after, the family moved back to the United States. In Romney's last interview with Univision, in January, the network's co-anchor, Jorge Ramos - who is fiercely proud of his Mexican descent - told Romney that under the Mexican Constitution, he could claim Mexican citizenship. Ramos asked Romney why he wasn't embracing his Mexican roots when he could be the first Latino president.
Romney answered then with a similar answer to the one on the video. He gave a brief description of the circumstances of his father's birth, but then explained that neither he nor his dad was Mexican or had any claim to Hispanic heritage. He finished by quipping, "I don't think people would think I was being honest with them if I said I was Mexican-American. But I would appreciate it if you'd get that word out."
I saw nothing wrong with Romney's answer. Neither did Ramos. Romney is not funny. When he tries to be, it often comes across as awkward. But his remark was not offensive. What would be insulting is if he used his father's Mexican birth to try to pass himself off as what he is not, solely for political purposes.
(CNN) - A few weeks ago, I said Mitt Romney's Hispanic outreach was not visible to the naked eye. I try to call 'em as I see 'em, even when it means criticism of my own party.
Today, I see a Romney Hispanic blitz. Latino-Palooza is underway. Hispanic volunteers are holding events, making phone calls, knocking on doors. Romney began to spend significant resources on Spanish TV ads in swing states with a sizable Hispanic population. He's doing an interview with Telemundo, speaking to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and participating in a Univision Candidate Forum, all this week.
My unsolicited advice to Romney: CONNECT! For the love of God, Mitt, acknowledge you are in front of Latinos. It's OK to talk to different communities about specific issues that affect them more than others. If done correctly and with sincerity, it is called speaking to your audience. If it strikes an inauthentic note, it's pandering.
Earlier this year, Romney spoke to the Latino Coalition. He mentioned "Latino" twice, once while thanking his hosts. Recently, he spoke at an event in Miami, Florida. You may have thought it was taking place in Miami, Ohio. He made no comments specifically targeted to the thousands of Hispanics braving the heat and humidity to hear him. Romney never mentioned foreign policy toward Latin America, not even Cuba. How someone fails to do that in the heart of Cuban-American Miami is puzzling.
Read Ana Navarro's full column
(CNN) - This week, the National Council of La Raza is hosting its annual conference in Las Vegas. The group is the biggest kid on the Hispanic block. Starting with George H.W. Bush, every Democrat and Republican president and nominee has addressed the conference. This year, neither Barack Obama nor Mitt Romney is doing so.
This is surprising in a year when plenty has been said about the importance of the Latino vote. Romney needs to do better than John McCain did in 2008. Obama needs to recapture Latino lightning in a bottle. He needs a wide margin of victory among Latinos and a high voter turnout.
Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to speak at this week's conference. The National Council of La Raza won't get the top dog. It will get the attack dog. You can send a No. 2 to burials and weddings of foreign leaders and to conferences you don't want to attend.
It's hard to express disappointment about merely getting the U.S. vice president to show up. Romney doesn't have a running mate. His campaign sent former Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez as a surrogate. The National Council of La Raza said the agenda was full and didn't give him a speaking slot.
What defines you? Maybe it’s the shade of your skin, the place you grew up, the accent in your words, the make up of your family, the gender you were born with, the intimate relationships you chose to have or your generation? As the American identity changes we will be there to report it. In America is a venue for creative and timely sharing of news that explores who we are. Reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Send Feedback | Subscribe