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Democrats make anti-Mitt Romney pitch to Puerto Ricans in Florida in lead up to island's primary

As the Republican primary shifts to Puerto Rico, which holds its election Sunday, Democrats continue to hammer at GOP presidential contenders as being out of touch with Hispanic voters.

They have focused in particular on former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who has been campaigning in Puerto Rico and standing by his remarks that he opposed the 2009 nomination of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Sotomayor is a New Yorker of Puerto Rican descent.

"Justice Sonia Sotomayor is an icon," U.S. Rep. Nydia Velázquez of New York told reporters Friday in a conference call. "For Mitt Romney to come and insult [her] ... Not only is he insulting Sonia Sotomayor. He is disrespecting Puerto Ricans and Latinos in this country."

She was joined by Florida state Rep. Darren Soto of Orlando, who represents the burgeoning Puerto Rican community in Central Florida -- the most coveted swing region in Florida, the nation's largest swing state.

"There's a strong tie between Central Florida and the island," Soto said. "I think this is going to be a critical misstep for him. I know he doesn't agree with her ideology, but this was unnecessary, to go after her."

Velázquez and Soto's message, while geared at Puerto Ricans, included many issues and buzzwords critical in Florida. They touted President Barack Obama's healthcare reform, which they repeatedly said would benefit Puerto Rican Medicare recipients, and bashed Romney's budgetary proposals, which Velázquez said would result in seniors having to "fend for themselves" in the private health-insurance market.

Soto, for his part, stressed Romney's opposition to the Dream Act -- a curious legislation to mention, given that Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens. The Dream Act would allow children who entered the country illegally and are in college or serve in the military to obtain a path to citizenship. Soto, however, argued that Puerto Ricans are particularly interested in the Dream Act because many of their young people serve in the military. 

Twenty-three delegates are at stake for Republicans in Puerto Rico, though Puerto Ricans on the island cannot cast ballots in the November presidential election.

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