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Why Florida's Latino Republicans tilt toward Mitt Romney

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In addition, Romney announced Friday the endorsement of the Republican governor of Puerto Rico, Luis Fortuño. Puerto Ricans represent the second largest segment of Florida Latinos.

So why more enthusiasm for Romney than Gingrich or the other Republican candidates still in the race? In a word, it’s Romney’s career in the private sector, which appeals to entrepreneurial-minded Hispanics.

“I was for Herman Cain, then when he dropped out, I switched to Mitt Romney,” says Frank Diaz of Miami, who owns a public relations and marketing firm with his wife. “I am sympathetic to business owners.”

Mr. Diaz also sees Romney as more electable – or as he puts it, having more appeal to “mainstream voters” – than Gingrich. His wife, Susy Alvarez-Diaz, also supports Romney, citing his articulation of issues in global terms.

In their remarks to the Hispanic Leadership Network, both Romney and Gingrich spoke of their support for a Cuba liberated from Communist rule, enhanced trade with Latin America, and support for immigration reform.

But on that last issue, it is Gingrich’s emphasis on finding what he calls a “humane” way to deal with illegal immigration – particularly law-abiding people who have been in the country a long time – that leads some of Florida’s Latino Republicans to back the former House speaker.

Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera, economic developer for the city of Doral, is one such Gingrich supporter. “There are plenty of people who are here illegally who have proven themselves,” Ms. Rodriguez Aguilera says. “They pay their taxes, they’re making America stronger.”

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