Santorum Appeals to Cuban Americans Ahead of Florida Primary

Jan 27, 2012 5:41pm
gty rick santorum ll 111028 wblog Santorum Appeals to Cuban Americans Ahead of Florida Primary

(Image Credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

MIAMI—Rick Santorum appealed to Cuban-Americans today by telling  the Latin Builders Association conference that they remind him of the people he grew up in the Rust Belt of Pennsylvania.

“Whenever I come down to the Cuban community here it seems like my home when I was growing up,” Santorum said at the Latin Builders Association Conference. “It’s a neighborhood of people who believe so strongly and love their faith, their family. It’s a sense of just a connectiveness to the community that I experienced when I was a kid growing up in that ethnic community I grew up in. It’s a wonderful lesson for our country.”

Santorum made his pitch to the state’s influential conservative voting bloc in the state ahead of Florida’s primary on Tuesday.

Accompanied by his eldest daughter Elizabeth he didn’t mention the issue of immigration, but did say Cuban Americans “as much as any community understands freedom and passion.”

The former Pennsylvania senator has previously criticized President Obama’s decision to ease restrictions on the country, 90 miles from Florida’s shores.

He called Venezuela, “Cuba Part B” and said they are a “willing partner with radical Islamists.”

“Why would they get together?” Santorum asked telling he crowd that Hugo Chavez is coordinating with Iran. “Because they both hate America and see America as a threat to a vision of the world and they both want to oppress and control and seek power so they have gotten together and coordinated.”

Santorum said “both the Bush administration and the Obama administration systematically ignored that area of the world” and he vowed as president not to do the same.

The Latin Builders Association is the largest Hispanic construction association in the United States and after Santorum’s address they decided to endorse him for president. The group said there was a “very spirited debate,” but in the end they decided to back Santorum. Newt Gingrich also spoke to the group Friday. Mitt Romney addressed the conference during the last campaign, but not this cycle. The group said all of the candidates were invited to speak.

Santorum did not criticize any of his opponents, but said the field needs a “sharp contrast” to the president and “someone who believes in the founding principles of our country.”

“Newt Gingrich I consider a friend, Gov. Romney is a good man and Ron Paul certainly brings a unique perspective to the equation,” Santorum said to laughs. “I just felt like it was important to have someone with a little different approach.”

Santorum heads to his home state of Pennsylvania  where he holds a fundraiser Friday evening. He is going to spend part of Saturday in Virginia, where he now lives, attending another fundraiser and getting his tax returns from his home computer and preparing to release them. He returns to Florida late Saturday night.

He told reporters Thursday he may not be in the state on primary day, instead possibly traveling to one of the upcoming caucus states like Colorado, Missouri, or Nevada where he has a chance to collect delegates. Florida is a winner takes all state, meaning the victor on Tuesday will head out of this important primary and general election state with all of its delegates. Since the state broke party rules by pushing its primary forward there is a slight chance it will not be winner takes all, something Santorum cites as one of his reasons for campaigning here, but there is almost no real chance of this.

The SuperPAC working on behalf of Santorum, The Red, White, and Blue Fund, told ABC News they will not be on the air in Florida, but they are looking at Nevada and Colorado among other states to place ads.

Most of the SuperPAC’s funding comes from Wyoming billionaire Foster Friess. Friess told the Wall Street Journal Friday he will continue to fund those television ads in February and March, helping Santorum stay competitive through Super Tuesday on March 6.

“I’m committed to Rick Santorum, and I’m going to be giving more to Rick Santorum,” Friess told the Journal.

Despite having almost no chance of winning in Florida, Santorum has pledged to fight on and collect delegates through the convention in August.

“We’re not going anywhere. We are going to be in this race, we are going to stay in this race for the long haul. We are planning for the next states,” Santorum said Thursday.

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