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Guantanamera, Marco Rubio and the Mitt Romney Miami rally

Despite heavy downpours in west Miami-Dade, hundreds of Mitt Romney supporters showed up at the Miami-Dade Fair and Expo Center to rally behind the Republican ticket -- and to wildly cheer whenever two words were mentioned: Marco Rubio, the native Miamian and Florida senator.

Romney delivered a standard stump speech that touched on job creation, growing small businesses and education.

But he also knew how to play to the local crowd.

Early in the speech, Romney aligned himself and the Republican party with Hispanic voters.

"This is the party of Sen. Marco Rubio," he said. "This is the natural home for Hispanic-Americans. This is the party of hope and opportunity."

Statistically, though, that's not the case right now. Hispanics in Florida are flocking to the Democratic party or no party at all. Hispanic voters have increased 39 percent in the past six years overall. Democratic Hispanics have grown 60 percent. No party affiliation Hispanics have increased 50 percent, and now outnumber GOP Hispanics by 5,000 in Florida, where Hispanic Republicans have increased their ranks 12 percent since 2006.

Miami-Dade, though, is still heavily Cuban-American, and they're still solidly Republican (although that's changing).

Romney mentioned Rubio more than once, drawing thunderous applause from the crowd each time he dropped the hometown lawmaker's name.

Later, Romney spoke to the hunger strike in Cuba, calling the participants "brave men and women" who had taken action "to stand up for freedom and democracy."

"When I am president, I will speak up for freedom in Cuba and across the world," he said.

Romney also referenced the story of his father, who emigrated for Mexico. For a brief time, Romney's father received welfare -- a hot topic as of late, considering Romney's statements bashing the entitlement state. Romney said his father used public assistance, but he didn't stay on it in a state of dependency.

"We help people, we get them on their feet," Romney said of America, rousing the crowd.

After Romney wrapped up and stepped off stage, a Cuban band called Havana Soul stepped in.

Their second song was Guantanamera.

Many at the event, like Pedro Febles, were drenched by the time they arrived at th pavilion. His red polo shirt was soaked through.

"This is the most important election since I've been in this country," said Febles, who came to the United States from Cuba in 1955. "I'm seeing a change take over that is bad for my children and grandchildren. We can't continue like this."

Febles said the issues that matter to Romney are the same issues that matter to the Hispanic community.

"Latin values are Republican values," he said.

Before Romney arrived, a band called Havana Soul filled the hall with upbeat Cuban standards. Couples danced. Children lined up at a concession stand to buy empanadas and croquetas.

When a video clip of Rubio was projected onto a large screen, the crowd went crazy.

For Carmen Tornyai, an undecided voter, Wednesday night was a chance to learn more about the candidate.

"I want to know what he's going to do for the economy," said Tornyai, who lost her house last year. "I need to know if I can trust him. I need to know he won't deceive us."

-- Kathleen McGrory