Tampa, Fla. – Ann Romney, wife of GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, stood before an audience Wednesday that represents a demographic her husband has stumbled in addressing.
At a Latino Coalition luncheon that attracted some 150 leaders Ann Romney delivered a message that aimed to give Latinos a sense of urgency about voting for her husband.
She told the crowd that while sitting backstage at the Republican National Convention Tuesday night, when she delivered a keynote speech that focused a great deal on women, she thought about how important this presidential election was for Latinos.
“As I was sitting backstage listening I thought it’s also very important that the Latino community recognize how important this election is for them,” Romney said.
Then she added: “They (Latinos) are mistaken if they think they are going to be better off with Barack Obama as their president,” she said. “There really is only one way for prosperity for small business and that is…the simplest way I can say this is if Mitt Romney wins, America wins.”
She spoke about her admiration for Latino family values, and the “sacrifices” and “devotion” they have shown. She spoke about her coal miner father and grandfather who came to the United States for a better economic opportunity, and linked their struggles to Latino families who have to come to the United States to escape oppression or for better economic opportunities.
“It’s really a message that would resonate well If they could just get past some of their biases that have been there from the Democratic machines that have made us look like we don’t care about this community, and that is not true,” she said.
She spotted Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuño in the audience and said: “Luis – Hola – Where’s Luce?”
She recalled a campaign visit to Puerto Rico and said it had left her impressed.
“What she (Puerto Rico’s First Lady) and her husband are doing on that little Island is quite remarkable and you should be so proud of Gov. Fortuño.”
She continued to talk about how gracious Puerto Ricans are on the island.
“I had the most rocking time in Puerto Rico at a political rally, that I had ever had in my entire life.”
“You people know how to party!” she said with her hands on her hip, laughing.
“That was crazy, it was a wonderful chance a peak into a culture, and a vibrancy, and a passion that I saw from that little island and that is really what represents the best of America.”
“It is what you give to this country, a vibrancy of color, a fabric of family and joy.”
So did the First Lady hopeful win over Latinos?
Some in the media and Latino community thought she did. Others thought she further alienated a voting bloc that many in the GOP worry feels so alienated by the party that it could threaten its future.
Some headlines read: "Ann Romney Woos Latinos Voters in Luncheon Speech," "Ann Romney Sells Her Husband at Hispanic Luncheon."
The coalition’s chairman, Hector Barreto, told the audience at the luncheon that the growing role of Latinos in the GOP was a source of pride.
“We don’t just have a seat at the table. We are commanding the table,” he said.
But others said her speech had done more harm than good for the Romney campaign.
Voxxi writer Julissa Bonfante wrote about the speech: "I was a bit offended."
"Note to Ann Romney," she wrote, 'That little island' you referred to – Puerto Rico — at the Latino Coalition luncheon in Tampa, part of the Republican National Convention, is not so little. And that was not the best use of adjectives to describe ‘La Isla del Encanto.'”
"She also talked about the sacrifices that 'you make,' referring to us Latinos in the audience," the writer said. "That 'you people' have to do...the minute that Mrs. Romney said 'your community' she created a distance between them and Latinos. Good message; failed delivery."
John A. Tures, an associate professor of political science, wrote for Yahoo News that Anne Romney "gave a charming speech on the second night of the Republican National Convention just before Chris Christie's Keynote Address in Tampa, Fla. But then she followed it up by sticking her foot into her mouth in a big way with a group Mitt is struggling with: Hispanic voters."