Mitt Romney, with a little help from one of his sons and several Cuban-American backers, put out his first Spanish-language television ad Wednesday in a direct appeal to Miami-Dade County's influential Hispanic Republicans.
It's not the first time Romney tries to speak to Hispanic voters in their language. For Romney's 2008 presidential campaign, the same son, Craig, recorded a Spanish-language radio spot for South Florida, and a TV ad called Mi Padre, My Father. (The younger Romney, who is apparently bilingual, even offered to translate for Dad at a Spanish-language Univisión debate.)
So Romney campaigns in two languages. But he has distanced himself from bilingualism in the past.
In a 2007 interview, he touted Massachusetts's move from bilingual education to "English immersion," saying "to be successful in America, you have to learn the language of America." (See video here.) The same year, he told the Union Leader in New Hampshire -- a state not exactly chock full of Latinos -- "We cannot be a bilingual nation like Canada." (See a blurb from an editorial from the conservative Boston Herald on the matter here, though you have to pay to read the full piece, which is very short).
Romney took flak during his 2008 campaign for airing Spanish-language ads while calling for an emphasis on using English. "I'm not anti-immigrant," Romney told a New Hampshire audience in 2007, according to the Chicago Tribune. "I'm happy to communicate to them and I hope they vote for me."
Many Hispanics, particularly conservative Cuban Americans, agree that immigrants should learn English (at least, that's a frequent comment made on conservative radio talk shows in...Spanish). Yet the larger issue Romney faces is not defending English-versus-Spanish but balancing his position on immigration.
As Romney released his Spanish-language TV ad in South Florida, his campaign touted the endorsement of Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state who pushed for illegal immigration crackdowns in his state and, most famously, in Arizona. "Kris has been a true leader on securing our borders and stopping the flow of illegal immigration into this country," Romney said in the endorsement press release.
The endorsement will likely play well in South Carolina and among conservatives in Florida. But it's a tougher sell in more liberal Miami-Dade. The Cuban-Americans featured in Romney's ads are already at odds with their candidate over his opposition to the pro-immigrant DREAM Act.