Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Few official activities on Republican convention Day 1, but big push for Latino voters

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The weather in Tampa, Florida on Monday was lousy and the Republican National Convention recessed almost as soon as it was gaveled in, but that didn't stop party officials from making the rounds.

John Sununu held a press conference with Latino media early in the day, and to the surprise of many reporters, the chair of New Hampshire's Republican Party and chief of staff under George H.W. Bush addressed audiences in Spanish.

Born in Cuba, Sununu warned the group to know that he spoke "Español de la cocina, no de la política." But his kitchen Spanish sounded pretty good to this gringa, as he took questions in both languages on the economy, Obama's lead with Hispanic voters and whether a President Mitt Romney would reverse the executive order that gives deferred deportation status to young undocumented students.

On the latter point, Sununu was vague. He emphasized Romney's plan to expand guest worker programs and visas for educated immigrants. He also criticized President Obama's decision to act unilaterally, allowing some protection for students under 30 who grew up in the U.S. But he did not commit Romney to reversing that executive order. 

After the press conference in the morning, Sununu was seen at many of the booths along radio row in the Convention Center, and later on national television. But he wasn't the only politician getting the word out to Latino voters in English and en Español.

Los Angeles mayor and DNC chair Antonio Villaraigosa showed up to do opposition media with Univisión Radio late in the day. Villaraigosa encouraged Latinos to stick with President Obama, whose policies benefit "the 98 percent ... Not just the 2 percent who could face tax hikes," he said.

Mayor Villaraigosa dodged a number of reporters to sit down with KPCC's AirTalk to talk about how the DNC will be different and the measures Dems will have to take to become "the party of fiscal responsibility." That, he said, includes taking on members of his own party on pension reform.

Back at the morning press conference Rep. Francisco Canseco of Texas summed up the GOP's message to Latinos who may have once supported Obama: "Hay algo mejor," or "there's something better."

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