The Florida presidential primary Tuesday is the first time the Hispanic population will have an opportunity to influence the outcome of the presidential race, and several prominent Hispanic political leaders said the Republicans' rhetoric was hurtful and turned off the very people they were trying to reach.
During last week's debate, three Republican presidential candidates said they would name Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., to some post in their administration should they be elected.
Carlos Gutierrez, commerce secretary in the George W. Bush administration and now a member of GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney's Hispanic steering committee, told CNN's "State of the Union" Republican values are similar to Hispanic values, but "the words sting sometimes, the words that are used around the debate. And that has turned off Hispanics."
Villaraigosa, also on CNN's "State of the Union," said "actions matter and that "American values are Democratic and Republican values."
"I believe very importantly that the problem is that that party focuses a lot on outreach and not on inclusion, that it's important to be a party that is a big tent," said Villaraigosa, a Democrat. "America is a big tent. We come from every corner of the Earth. Our values should represent that and our politics and our actions, our policies should represent that."
Gutierrez and Villaraigosa went back and forth on whether President Obama has adequately addressed the immigration issue since taking office, with Gutierrez saying the president didn't deliver on a campaign promise and Villaraigosa saying Obama pushed the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act that included aspects of immigration reform, which died in Congress.
Also, the Los Angeles mayor said, immigration isn't the only issue for Latinos, citing concerns about education, jobs and the economy.
In another segment of "State of the Union," Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott said he understands why polls indicate Romney is doing well among Latinos, with one poll indicating he had 49 percent support of Latino voters compared with 23 percent saying they backed former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
"I mean, if you look at Gov. Romney's family, he's been very successful. He's built a great family, very committed to his wife," Scott said. "He's somebody that's been successful in life. So I think if they look at his background, it's what they want. They care about their families. They care about, you know, somebody that's been successful in business. That's what they care about. So I think that's part of what his attraction to the Latino vote."
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