Aug. 31, 2012 -- The GOP brought their best Dirty-Dancing-Havana-Nights Spanish to the Republican National Convention in hopes of wooing Latinos — a key voting bloc in many swing states. Spanish flare was sprinkled into English-language speeches at every turn. But the true Diego Luna of the convention, if you will, was none other than Craig "El Hijo" Romney who gave a very large portion of his speech en Español.
Despite the number of Spanish words thrown around, and the frequent references from RNC speakers to their immigrant backgrounds, there was almost no mention of reforming immigration law — an issue close to the hearts of many Latino voters.
Nearly every Latino who spoke made sure to throw in a lil' Español. Marco Rubio recounted his father's words of advice: "En este pais, ustedes van a poder lograr todas las cosas que nosotros no pudimos." [Translation: In this country, you will be able to accomplish all the things we never could] Susana Martinez reminded us that " en America todo es posible." [In America, everything is possible] And Luis Fortuño gave his island a Spanish language shout out with a "Buenas noches, Puerto Rico!"and added "No te rindes"or "Don't give up."
But the most Spanish at the convention didn't come from a Latino. Rather, the Republican nominee's son, Craig Romney, took the stage and showed off his Spanish language skills. Unlike the Kristen Wiig's Spanish toast in the movie Bridesmaids, Craig handled the language well by most accounts, having learned it while "viviendo y trabajando en Chile" for two years ('living and working in Chile').
During the Spanish portion of his speech, Craig Romney hit on some of the same points that Republicans are repeating to Latinos over and over in the campaign: Romney is a hard-working family man who thinks of the United States as a nation of immigrants.
"The core values of our party share great common ground with those held dear by Hispanics," Governor of Nevada Brian Sandoval said in a promotional video geared towards Latinos called "Juntos Con Romney." The immigrant narrative was also strong thread throughout many other speeches. Among others, Nikki Haley, Chris Christie, Rick Santorum, Marco Rubio, Ann Romney, and Susana Martinez made mention of their ancestors who were immigrants.
The only problem? Latinos don't seem to be buying it. Most polls show Romney is still far behind with Latino voters, and many political analysts attribute this to the harsh "self-deportation" rhetoric that Romney employed during the Republican primaries.
Despite all the "Hispandering" (pandering to Hispanics), it's not clear that Romney is seeking to fix his record on immigration with Latinos. Romney adviser and former Gov. of New Hampshire John Sununu told Univision on Thursday that he had no idea what Romney's response would be to Obama's temporary deferred action policy.
While immigrant narratives at the RNC featured prominently, immigration did not. Romney, along with most other RNC speakers, failed to acknowledge the plight of undocumented workers or their families, and failed to address immigration reform at all in their speeches.
Opinion columnist and Senior Analyst at Latino Decisions, Dr. Victoria M. DeFrancesco Soto, called the RNC convention an "immigrant tease" for the actual immigrant community in her recent column for NBCLatino. "If we are to take Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan at his word that Republicans will not duck the tough issues," she wrote, "then Republicans better get started on their blueprint for an effective immigration policy overhaul."