10/02/2012 09:16 am ET

Julian Castro Campaigns For Obama In Florida, Meets With Puerto Rican Voters

San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro hit the campaign trail for Obama again this weekend, reaching out to Latino voters in Florida.

Swinging from Tampa to Orlando, Castro attended rallies, gave pep talks to campaign volunteers and reached out to Puerto Rican voters in the country’s largest swing state, where 29 electoral college votes are up for grabs.

“Florida is in such a special place again,” Castro said, according to the San Antonio Express-News. “Y’all are just one of a handful of states that are really going to speak with a voice for the nation.”

Castro arrived to a hero’s welcome at a campaign event with Sen. Juan Hernández, a member of the Puerto Rican Senate, held at Orlando’s La Lechonera restaurant Sunday, The San Antonio Express-News reported:

It took Castro 15 minutes to move as many feet beneath the awning of the restaurant, where scores of volunteers from the Obama for America campaign had eagerly awaited his arrival. He shook hands, posed for photos and gracefully accepted recommendations that he should run for president in 2016 — something he has repeatedly said he won't do — before addressing the large crowd.

Still riding a wave of enthusiasm after a successful keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention, Castro has continued to earn praise from Democratic Party insiders. Some have described him as a rising Latino political star. Last week Newark Mayor Cory Booker said he thought Castro would be the first Latino governor of Texas, where no Democrat has won statewide office since 1994.

“The demographics are on your side,” Booker said, according to Politico. “The work in Texas now is planting seeds for that state to go blue very, very soon.”

This year, Florida and its increasingly diverse Latino electorate will play a critical role in determining who wins The White House. So, San Antonio’s mayor wasn’t the only accendent political figure making the rounds in Florida.

Mitt Romney’s running mate Paul Ryan also visited the state last week to court Cuban-American voters -- perhaps the only sizeable segment of the Latino vote that reliably leans conservative.

Speaking at the Versailles Restaurant, a favorite gathering spot of the aging, rabidly anti-Castro Cuban exile community, the Wisconsin congressman pledged to bring down the hammer on leftwing Latin-American strongmen.

“We will be tough on Castro, tough on Chávez,” Ryan said of Cuban head of state Raúl Castro and Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.

Earlier in his career, Ryan supported loosening the half-century-old trade embargo against Cuba, voting against it twice in 2001 and once in 2004. Ryan changed course in 2007, according to The Miami Herald’s Naked Politics blog.

In last week’s speech, Ryan attributed his change of heart to three of South Florida's leading Cuban-American Republican politicians: Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart; his brother, former Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart, and Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

“I learned from these friends, from Mario, from Lincoln, from Ileana, just how brutal the Castro regime is, just how this president's policy of appeasement is not working,” Ryan said, according to CNN.

The sixth in a series of weekly impreMedia-Latino Decisions tracking polls surveying Hispanic voters released Monday found Obama ahead of Romney by the largest margin so far. A full 73 percent of Latino voters plan to vote for Obama, compared to the 21 percent backing Romney. In the 10 battleground states, Obama's lead shrinks to 61 percent of the Latino vote compared to the 33 percent leaning toward Romney in the poll’s general election season average. The battleground state figures include Florida.

Julian Castro, a national co-chair of the Obama campaign, will head to Los Angeles this weekend to continue pushing for the president’s reelection.



Leading Latino Politicians