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Bienvenido a Miami. Why the Republican presidential candidates are pushing for the Hispanic vote

MIAMI -- A sign it's getting close to election day in Florida: Mitt Romney softens his immigration stance and his opponent's new ads end with " Soy Newt Gingrich y apruebo este mensaje."

Bienvenido a Miami.

With their gringo Spanish and Castro-crackdown plans, the two leading GOP candidates are flocking this week to this Latin American-influenced county where 72 percent of the roughly 368,000 registered Republicans are Latino. To date, about 54,000 Republicans have cast early and absentee ballots.

Romney heads to the Freedom Tower on Wednesday afternoon to talk Latin American policy. Gingrich will do the same Wednesday morning at Florida International University. Each is also dropping by the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce's forum broadcast by Spanish-language powerhouse Univision. Rick Santorum and Ron Paul, who trail in the polls, are not making any scheduled appearances in Miami on Wednesday.

On Friday, Gingrich, Romney and Santorum are expected to appear before the Hispanic Leadership Network forum run by Sen. Marco Rubio and former Gov. Jeb Bush, a leader in Latino-Republican outreach. All three are scheduled to then meet with the mighty Latin Builders Association.

But they'll all have some explaining to do after spending the past several months pandering to right wing voters in the early primary states, said Frank Sharry, who heads up America's Voice, a liberal immigration reform group.

Now, the candidates must "square their right-wing rhetoric on things like English-only and immigration in a state that's nearly a quarter Hispanic," Sharry said.

The Republican candidates oppose the pro-immigrant DREAM Act, which many Latinos support. Liberals are tarring them for being "anti-Hispanic" and a union group is bashing Romney with radio ads in Central Florida.

But Bush said it's pure political posturing.

"Democrats have failed to deliver comprehensive reform," Bush said in a written statement, noting that President Barack Obama and a majority Democratic Congress didn't pass the DREAM Act. "They have chosen to use these issues to drive a wedge."

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