Looks like Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich is stepping up efforts at garnering the all-important Hispanic vote.
Gingrich has hired Jose Mallea, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio's former campaign chief, to be his Florida campaign director, according to The Miami Herald. Mallea was behind the Tea Party favorite's victory in the 2010 Senate elections.
Mallea, who has strong liaisons with Republicans in Florida and the Hispanic community in Miami-Dade, could help Gingrich make inroads into these two groups. In Miami-Dade, where more than 70 percent of registered Republicans are Hispanic, according to The Miami Herald, Gingrich's new hire could prove important to his attempts to secure the key state.
"At the end of the day, Florida is important and so is the Hispanic vote. Hispanics aren't just a crucial part of the electorate, they're part of the cultural fiber that makes Florida one of the most dynamic states in the nation," Mallea told The Miami Herald.
With Gingrich' surging in early primary polls, expect to see other moves designed to lure the Hispanic vote. He recently launched the Spanish-language website, newtpresidente.com, which gives Spanish speakers information about his campaign.
But Gingrich could stand to gain the most from his perceived link to Rubio, whose campaign challenged the national GOP establishment.
Sen. Rubio, who is considered a strong vice presidential contender, has stated that he will not support any presidential candidate before the Florida primary in January. However, Gingrich's hiring of Mallea will likely fuel speculation about Rubio's possible endorsement of Gingrich.
Although Rubio has been criticized for embellishing his family history, the fact that he is the son of Cuban immigrants could be a plus among Republicans and Latino voters. Rubio has said that the GOP should not be labeled as the anti-immigration party and has condemned the hard-line rhetoric used by some of the party’s presidential candidates, according to Fox News Latino.
Gingrich isn't the first GOP candidate to try and lure Florida's Hispanic vote. Mitt Romney recently made a campaign appearance at Conchita Foods, "a Florida family-run business founded by Cuban exiles -- a rite of passage for aspiring GOP presidential candidates," according to Huff Post.
But Gingrich appears to have the momentum for now. In a NBC news poll released on Sunday, Gingrich is surging in early primary state polling, with 44% over Romney's 29% in Florida, according to Huff Post.