It’s hard to overstate the importance of a presidential candidate winning the state of Florida in the general election – which is arguably the single most important state in deciding who will next occupy the White House. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is an early-bird campaigner, already aggressively working the Sunshine state to woo its heavy concentration of evangelical and Cuban-American voters.
At a south Florida fundraiser Monday, Romney received the endorsement of three Cuban-American Republicans who can deliver tens of thousands of votes, especially in the Miami-Dade County area.
U.S. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart and his brother, former Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, have all signed onto the Romney campaign and will serve as foreign policy advisers. Their support is significant in light of the fact that Romney lost the Miami-Dade area to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in the 2008 GOP primary by over 52,000 votes.
Notably, Ros-Lehtinen is the only House Republican to sign onto the bill that would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. Ros-Lehtinen has a son who is homosexual. Her endorsement and support could cause some to question how strong Romney’s commitment to DOMA will be if he wins in November.
While many of the other candidates are focusing on either Iowa or New Hampshire, Romney appears to be focusing on New Hampshire but also has the luxury of branching out to other states, such as Florida.
“It’s almost like every other campaign is focused on this slingshot strategy with having to win one or two other states and then coming into Florida with momentum,” former Bush adviser Brett Doster told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
While Romney is recruiting influential Cuban-Americans to shore up the southern end of the state, he’s successfully recruiting evangelical Republicans in the northern and panhandle sections of Florida.
Last week the Romney campaign announced members of what is being billed as his “Social Conservatives Statewide Steering Committee,” which included prominent pro-life and pro-family politicos. Dave Weldon, a former GOP Congressman from Florida, will lead the group. Co-chairs are former state Senator Pat Neal, state Senator Anitere Flores and state Rep. Daniel Davis.
“Mitt Romney is a pro-life and is a true conservative on issues of family and faith,” Neal said in a Romney campaign press release. “The members of this committee are tired of the liberal policies of the Obama Administration and are confident that Gov. Romney will stand up for the values that have made our country strong and will appoint judges that respect the Constitution and the rule of law.”
The 17-member steering committee also includes prominent evangelical pastors and activists who helped lead the state’s 2008 marriage amendment.
For example, Flores has earned a reputation as one of the state legislature’s most conservative members and introduced and passed a legislation making it harder for women to get abortions in Florida.
Another conservative activist is Nancy McGowan, a pro-life Catholic who has been appointed to a number of conservative boards and commissions by Florida elected officials.
In an earlier email to The Christian Post, Romney spokesperson Andrea Saul said the campaign was “aggressively trying to win anywhere Gov. Romney’s name appears on the ballot.” From all indications, they are putting extra effort into Florida.