Mitt Romney Opens Florida Campaign Office in Conservative Latino Stronghold

Tucked into a corner of a two-story strip shopping mall in the South Florida city of Hialeah, more than 100 Mitt Romney supporters turned out Saturday for the opening of the Republican Presidential candidate’s new campaign office.

Hialeah, which locals call “la ciudad que progresa,” Spanish for “the city of progress,” hopes to play a major role in boosting the Hispanic vote for Romney in the crucial state of Florida.

“The Cuban American vote is nowhere stronger than in Hialeah,” said former Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart, who is a staunch Romney supporter.

The first floor office, decorated in red, white and blue balloons, banners and “Mitt Romney for President” signs, was full of Hispanic Republicans of all ages. Sipping Cuban coffee and eating Cuban pastries and sandwiches as they waited, many couldn’t help but talk politics, the future of the country and the crucial role of Hispanics in the November election.

“Hialeah is a very Republican, conservative city and we have very traditional, conservative values,” said 28-year-old Bryan Avila, who was born and raised in Hialeah. “Hialeah, being one of the biggest cities in Florida, is essential for Mitt Romney to have a good chance to carry Florida.”

Avila’s 28-year-old wife, Cindy Gil-Avila, agreed.

“I think he’s very good and the city offers strong support, being such a big city with lots of Republicans,” Gil-Avila said, referring to Romney.

Hialeah is the sixth-largest city in the state of Florida and nearly 95 percent of its population is Hispanic. It’s the kind of place the Republican Presidential hopeful needs right now.

A Mason-Dixon poll released Saturday and commissioned by the Tampa Bay Times, Miami Herald and Bay News 9, shows President Obama in the lead among registered voters with 46 percent support versus Romney’s 45 percent.

The same poll shows Obama is ahead 49 percent to Romney’s 42 percent among Latino voters. Some 63 percent of Hispanic voters in South Florida favored Obama’s decision to suspend deportation of some young immigrants who came here illegally as children, according to the poll.

“This election won’t be easy,” Lincoln Diaz-Balart said, addressing the crowd in Spanish.

Diaz-Balart warned that the President’s supporters are working around the clock to get him re-elected. “Hialeah and our community is the basis where our victory will be made to elect Mitt Romney as President of the United States,” he said.

Neither Romney nor his wife, Ann, were at the campaign office kickoff.

About a dozen local and Florida politicians addressed supporters and encouraged them to volunteer to spread the word about Romney, make phone calls and tell their family and friends to vote. “Hialeah and this community will not only elect the next President, but will save this country,” said Florida Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart.