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As Marco Rubio And Ted Cruz Rise, Hispanic Evangelical Leaders See Courtship Intensify

Conservative evangelical voters are a key bloc in the Republican primary — that’s not new.

But the presence of two rising Cuban-American candidates, Sen. Marco Rubio and Sen. Ted Cruz, as well as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, has invigorated another segment of this crucial bloc of voters: conservative, Hispanic evangelicals. The growing bloc voters (19% of Hispanics and counting) is more conservative and more strongly pro-life than other Latinos.

And as Cruz and Rubio spar over their records — especially on national security and immigration — these voters who are passionate about immigration, an issue at the nexus between their culture and their faith, are watching.

And in the case of Rubio, engaging. The Florida senator is “slowly but surely” increasing outreach to Hispanic evangelicals, a source close to the campaign said, not wanting to wait until May or June 2016.

Rubio’s campaign has increasingly reached out to faith leaders since the last Republican debate on Nov. 10, according to pastors who have been contacted. Many Hispanic evangelicals have also been calling his campaign unprompted, the source close to the campaign said.

“We’ve had pastors who’ve come to us saying ‘We really like Marco, Marco is a guy who is acceptable to us, he hasn’t made any anti-Hispanic remarks to the point that Donald Trump or Ted Cruz have,’” the source said.

The Hispanic evangelical community is “very key for the Republican party,” said Florida GOP spokesman Wadi Gaitan. “Being able to garner the support of these pastors is key and as more and more candidates try to gain the support of this community they’re going to the churches.”

Those in Rubio’s campaign orbit believe a key leader — Rev. Samuel Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC), which includes 40,000 congregations nationwide — already supports Rubio behind the scenes. A separate Republican source who works with Hispanic pastor groups and is unaffiliated with Rubio’s campaign confirmed they heard the same thing.

“The grapevine is crazy,” Rodriguez told BuzzFeed News by phone. “Sam Rodriguez has yet to formerly endorse, but I can tell you he’s not supporting Donald Trump.”

Rodriguez described Rubio as an “amazingly attractive candidate — he gets it.” He called Jeb Bush and Rubio his “two preferable choices as individuals.”

In an extensive New Yorker profile of the Florida senator released Monday, Rodriguez was also critical of Rubio on immigration, because he no longer supports the bipartisan bill he helped craft and usher through the Senate.

“Marco Rubio’s de-facto one-eighty on immigration after the Gang of Eight failed was nothing other than a mistake. It was a serious mistake, and, I would argue, an ethical miscalculation,” he said.

Bush and Mike Huckabee were the only candidates to go to the NHCLC’s April national conference in Houston.

Hispanic pastors in Florida have viewed Rubio and Bush as their top two choices for a while, and say there is an appetite for a candidate that makes traditional values, national security, and uniting the country a priority.

Marilyn Lopez, who serves on the board of the Hispanic Association of South Florida, which includes 600 pastors and ministers, said she likes Rubio and Bush and wishes Huckabee was doing better in the race.

But the subject of Ted Cruz is a little different for her and others.

Lopez and other members of her church routinely pile into a coach bus and head to the state capitol in Tallahassee to lobby for pro-life bills, but also for driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants, which she says would “help the economy and keep roads safe.” Immigration is also a matter of faith for her — and the reason Cruz doesn’t crack her top three.

“Cruz talks really bad about immigration and that upsets me,” she said.

If Rubio is questioned by the Latino evangelicals for how he’s handled immigration since 2013, Cruz’s sharper edges and more strident language have made him more polarizing on the issue.

“Sen. Ted Cruz is an amazing, brilliant individual and a wonderful Christian, a great brother in Christ,” Rodriguez said. “But I would like to see Sen. Cruz, for his rhetoric to reflect more of his heart,” he added, pointing to private conversations he has had with him that he believes more accurately reflect his views.

Publicly, Cruz has instead backed away from parts of immigration he used to support. In April, at a forum with the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Cruz said the economy is the issue Latinos care about the most, not immigration. He repeated his oft-used line that he is the biggest champion of legal immigration. But he sounded a different tone months later, in the days after the last debate, when the fight between he and Rubio on immigration broke out into the open.

Cruz, who used to support increasing the number of high-skilled immigrant H-1B visas by up to 500%, said he now wanted to suspend the program for six months to “complete an audit of pervasive allegations of abuse” and would “halt any increases in legal immigration so long as American unemployment remains unacceptably high.”

Frank Lopez, a board member of several pastor and minister organizations in Florida, said he likes Carson, Rubio, and Cruz — Bush is a “great man and a great governor,” yet doesn’t make the cut — but acknowledged that Cruz is the more polarizing of the group.

“I think we’re reaching a point where we’re going to have to make harder measurements on immigration but at the same time we need a candidate that deals with them with compassion and gives them a fair opportunity to stay here,” he said.

The pastors said compassion is wholly missing from Trump’s rhetoric, and point to Cruz’s chumminess with the frontrunner as a problem.

“Cruz at times, because of the nature of the campaign and Donald Trump, the pressure Trump is exerting to move further right — no further wrong — on immigration, has presented the issue not as nuanced as it is,” Rodriguez said.

San Antonio Pastor Marcus Burgos, who has worked with the conservative LIBRE Initiative in his church, favors Rubio and Cruz and made a distinction between them and Trump, but framed deporting undocumented immigrants as a community issue.

“As a Hispanic living in Texas, you can’t say everybody has to go,” he said. “Everybody has a face and a name, in the grassroots, there is a relationship involved. If you believe everybody has to go you’re sending friends away, you’re sending family away.”

Even Rubio supporters acknowledge that Cruz has been the candidate most aggressively courting evangelical voters, though. His father, Rafael Cruz, a Spanish-speaking pastor, is said to be reaching out to Hispanic evangelicals, known asevangélicos, but it is unclear how well it is going and how much of a priority it is for him. The campaign did not respond to a request for comment before publication.

And if Cruz’s immigration rhetoric and policy turns off some, Hispanic pastors say they love his strong support for Israel. It’s one area where Cruz appears to have a high-profile supporter. Mario Bramnick, president of Hispanic Israel Leadership Coalition and the NHCLC’s southeast director, has appeared at multiple events with Cruz including the rally to stop the Iran Deal, which also featured Trump. Bramnick declined repeated requests to comment, though a source who works with him said he likes Rubio, too.

Even the pastors who haven’t always supported Republicans have received an entreaty or two from the campaigns.

Rev. Luis Cortés Jr., president of the Philadelphia based Esperanza, a group of 13,000 Hispanic faith and community-based organizations, was part of a White House delegation to Honduras and Guatemala, and has not ruled out supporting Republican candidates. Reached while on vacation, he said he has to return a call from the Rubio campaign when he gets back.

Like many of the other pastors, he said Syrian refugees should be properly screened after the Paris ISIS attacks but their religion should not be a factor. But he said candidates fall short when they fail to classify immigrants coming from Central America as refugees, too.

“One of the issues we have as Hispanic leaders, is that black lives matter, but maybe brown ones don’t,” he said, annoyed that the only time Latinos are talked about during debates for each party is on immigration.

But even though the pastors listed many issues they care about: poverty, religious freedom, traditional marriage, and others, they all ultimately returned to Trump and immigration — and a warning for Cruz.

“I am extremely disappointed in Donald Trump’s positions,” Cortés Jr. said. “I am also disappointed that he hasn’t been thoroughly denounced by the other candidates running. Candidates who don’t want to go against him so they can eventually get his supporters.” Anyone who won’t denounce him, he said, “is willing to do anything to become president” and disqualifies themselves.

Marilyn Lopez said she wishes Republicans would adjust their rhetoric. “This is why I get upset, Democrats speak so nice. They draw the people that really need immigration reform,” she said.

“It’s sad Republican candidates don’t have that kind of heart,” she said. “If we don’t talk about these issues we’re going to lose them to Hillary and to liberals because they seem to be more welcoming and that scares me.”

Original article can be read here: http://www.buzzfeed.com/adriancarrasquillo/as-marco-rubio-and-ted-cruz-rise-hispanic-evangelical-leader?utm_term=.twoWjZp55a#.tuaXOYD99x

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Marco Rubio Announces Religious Liberty Advisory Board

This morning, the Marco Rubio for President campaign is excited to announce the formation of Marco Rubio’s Religious Liberty Advisory Board. Marco is a leader of faith who understands that our country was rooted in the principle of religious liberty. As he strives to uphold this founding principle, he seeks guidance from faith leaders across the country who are dedicated to defending it.

“Religious liberty is the cornerstone of the American experiment. From the beginning, our commitment to the principle that no one should ever be prevented from living according to their religious beliefs or coerced into doing something they don’t believe in has been tested,” said Eric Teetsel, Marco Rubio for President’s Director of Faith Outreach. “In the last few years we have seen a debate over the place of religion and faithful people in the public square arise yet again. The next president must stand up and defend the religious liberty of all citizens. Marco and our team are honored to have at our disposal the collective wisdom of America’s foremost defenders of religious liberty. This diverse group represents men and women of many faiths and perspectives, including academics, pastors, and advocates. We intend to take full advantage of their input and wisdom as Senator Rubio fights to protect American’s religious liberty in the 21st Century.”

Religious Liberty Advisory Board Members*

Dr. Carlos Campo, President, Ashland University

Vincent Bacote, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Theology and Director of Center for Applied Christian Ethics, Wheaton College

Kyle Duncan, former general counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and lead counsel for the Green family in the Hobby Lobby case

Tom Farr, Ph.D., Director, Religious Freedom Project at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs and Associate Professor of the Practice of Religion and World Affairs, Georgetown University

Kellie Fiedorek, Legal Counsel, Alliance Defending Freedom

Wayne Grudem, Ph.D., Research Professor of Theology and Biblical Studies, Phoenix Seminary

The Very Rev. Dr. Chad Hatfield, Chancellor, St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary

Dr. Thomas Kidd, Distinguished Professor of History and Associate Director, Institute for Studies of Religion, Baylor University

Dr. Daniel Mark, Villanova University; Commissioner, United States Commission on International Religious Freedom

Michael McConnell, Richard and Frances Mallery Professor and director of the Constitutional Law Center, Stanford University Law School

Doug Napier, Senior Counsel and Executive Vice President, Alliance Defending Freedom

Rev. Dr. Samuel Rodriguez, President, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference

Rabbi Dr. Meir Soloveichik, Rabbi of Congregation Shearith Israel; Director of the Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought, Yeshiva University

Rick Warren, Founding Pastor of Saddleback Church

Thomas White, Ph.D., President and Professor of Theology, Cedarville University

*Institutional affiliations for identification purposes only

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Marco Rubio Forms Religious Freedom Advisory Board With Rick Warren, Samuel Rodriguez

Republican presidential hopeful Senator Marco Rubio formed a religious freedom advisory board including several prominent Evangelical leaders and academic experts.

Board members have not necessarily endorsed Rubio’s bid to become the Republican presidential nominee, but serve in and advisory capacity and are free to advise other candidates.

According to WORLD News Group, the board includes Saddleback Church leader Rick Warren, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference President Samuel Rodriguez, theologian Wayne Grudem, and Baylor University History Professor Thomas S. Kidd.

In an interview with The Christian Post, the Rev. Rodriguez explained that he agreed to be part of the advisory board because he had “great affinity, respect, and admiration for Senator Rubio.”

“We have yet to meet, but we are looking forward to meeting and discussing the critical issue of religious liberty,” said Rodriguez.

“Everyone on the advisory board comes in agreement that religious liberty must emerge as a primary issue in the 2016 election.”

The NHCLC leader also told CP that while he had much respect for Rubio and was going to be part of the board, this did not mean he endorsed the candidacy of Rubio.

“My participation as an advisor on religious liberty issues to Senator Marco Rubio does not in any way, form, or shape indicate a de facto endorsement of his candidacy,” said Rodriguez.

“The NHCLC will never endorse any political candidate for any political party. Samuel Rodriguez the citizen, not as president of the NHCLC, but Samuel Rodriguez American citizen will be endorsing a candidate for the general election but not during the primaries.”

A Miami, Florida native who has a personal history with Catholicism, Mormonism, and Protestantism, Rubio declared his bid for the presidency last April.

Since entering the race, he has worked to appeal to social conservatives, a crucial component of the Republican primary base.

One example is Rubio’s support for the First Amendment Defense Act, which prohibits the federal government from discriminating against critics of same-sex marriage.

In addition to being a cosponsor of the FADA bill last year, Rubio has pledged to sign the it into law if elected president within the first one hundred days of his administration.

Professor Kidd explained to CP that he agreed to serve on Rubio’s advisory board “because the issue of religious freedom is of preeminent importance.”

“It is heartening that a major candidate would want to consult a range of experts to understand religious liberty’s legal and historical roots,” said Kidd.

“I was delighted to find that I, as a history professor, might be able to serve Sen. Rubio and his team by addressing the reasons why America’s founders considered religious liberty to be the ‘first freedom.'”

Kidd also told CP that while he has “not endorsed Senator Rubio formally” nor did “the campaign ask me to do so”, he does “support Sen. Rubio’s candidacy.”

News of Rubio’s advisory board comes as Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz of Utah announced his support for Rubio.

“Marco Rubio — he is the real thing. He is a great conservative. He has a great record and I think he would be just an amazing president,” stated Rep. Chaffetz, as reported by ksl.com.

“[Voters have] got to take a good hard look at all the candidates. I am not going to tell them who to vote for, but I’ve looked at them all and I think Marco Rubio is the right person.”

Other board members include Carlos Campo, president of Ashland University, Thomas Farr, president of Georgetown’s Religious Freedom Project, and Michael McConnell, Richard and Frances Mallery Professor and director of the Constitutional Law Center at Stanford University Law School.

Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/marco-rubio-religious-freedom-advisory-board-rick-warren-samuel-rodriguez-154381/#KMUM1Stj12EJG1bA.99

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Marco Rubio’s ‘Religious Liberty Advisory Board’ Includes Immigration Reform Advocate

As the presidential candidates prepare for February’s Iowa caucus, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., named his “Religious Liberty Advisory Board.”

Iowa, typically regarded as an evangelical state, will have its caucus on Feb. 1, but on Jan. 6, Rubio’s presidential campaign revealed its “Religious Liberty Advisory Board.” Of the listed 15 individuals, two are Latinos: Dr. Carlos Campo, who serves as president at Ashford University, and Rev. Dr. Samuel Rodriguez, who serves as the president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC).

 Rev. Samuel Rodriguez & Immigration Reform Support

Rodriguez, a conservative, has been a strong supporter for congressional immigration reform, which Rubio previously co-sponsored in 2013 with the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act” (S. 744), a bipartisan legislation that included pathway to citizenship for immigrants, reforms to the immigrant visa process, 700 miles of pedestrian fencing on the southern U.S. border and more than 38,000 trained full-time active duty Border Patrol agents on the southern border.

Rodriguez has been impressed with Rubio’s leadership, however, he has been vocal about Rubio’s latest immigration stance. According to the Boston Globe last June, Rodriguez said Rubio “was Joshua leading the people into the Promised Land of immigration. Then, right when we were on the Jordan River, he pivoted. He looked back to the desert. All of the sudden he pivoted; he took his foot out of the water.”

 He later said, “The decibel level is lower. That passion is no longer there. … When you hear him speak now you see his eyes move down a bit, his voice fluctuates a tad. It’s not the same convicted Marco Rubio that led the charge back in 2013.”

Despite the immigration stance, Rodriguez still believed the Florida senator did not alter convictions, but that Rubio changed his “political calculations” to win the Republican nomination.

 No Endorsement

As president of the NHCLC, Rodriguez previously hosted fellow Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush last April. He once called Bush a “blessing.” Last October, Bush also announced his “Religious Liberty Advisory Committee.” In an NHCLC statement on Jan. 7, Rodriguez acknowledged that some NHCLC pastors support fellow Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, but “more favor” Bush and Rubio. The same statement clarified that Rodriguez’s involvement in Rubio’s board is not a form of endorsement. He said he will endorse a candidate later this summer.

 “Religious liberty is the cornerstone of the American experiment. From the beginning, our commitment to the principle that no one should ever be prevented from living according to their religious beliefs or coerced into doing something they don’t believe in has been tested,” said Marco Rubio for President’s Director of Faith Outreach Eric Teetsel, in a statement announcing the advisory board.

“In the last few years we have seen a debate over the place of religion and faithful people in the public square arise yet again. The next president must stand up and defend the religious liberty of all citizens. Marco and our team are honored to have at our disposal the collective wisdom of America’s foremost defenders of religious liberty. This diverse group represents men and women of many faiths and perspectives, including academics, pastors, and advocates. We intend to take full advantage of their input and wisdom as Senator Rubio fights to protect American’s religious liberty in the 21st Century,” Teetsel added.

Also accompanying Campo and Rodriguez in Rubio’s “Religious Liberty Advisory Board” are:

  • Vincent Bacote, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Theology and Director of Center for Applied Christian Ethics, Wheaton College
  • Kyle Duncan, former general counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and lead counsel for the Green family in the Hobby Lobby case
  • Tom Farr, Ph.D., Director, Religious Freedom Project at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs and Associate Professor of the Practice of Religion and World Affairs, Georgetown University
  • Kellie Fiedorek, Legal Counsel, Alliance Defending Freedom
  • Wayne Grudem, Ph.D., Research Professor of Theology and Biblical Studies, Phoenix Seminary
  • The Very Rev. Dr. Chad Hatfield, Chancellor, St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary
  • Dr. Thomas Kidd, Distinguished Professor of History and Associate Director, Institute for Studies of Religion, Baylor University
  • Dr. Daniel Mark, Villanova University; Commissioner, United States Commission on International Religious Freedom
  • Michael McConnell, Richard and Frances Mallery Professor and director of the Constitutional Law Center, Stanford University Law School
  • Doug Napier, Senior Counsel and Executive Vice President, Alliance Defending Freedom
  • Rabbi Dr. Meir Soloveichik, Rabbi of Congregation Shearith Israel; Director of the Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought, Yeshiva University
  • Rick Warren, Founding Pastor of Saddleback Church
  • Thomas White, Ph.D., President and Professor of Theology, Cedarville University

Got Faith?

On Thursday, Rubio released his latest campaign ad titled “Faith.” Rubio uses the 30-second spot to talk about his Christian faith and the role of Jesus Christ in his life.

“The purpose of our life is to cooperate with God’s plan. To those who much have been given, much is expected. And we will be asked to account for that. Were your treasures stored up on earth or in heaven? And to me, I try to allow that to influence me in everything that I do,” said Rubio.

Original article can be read here: http://www.latinpost.com/articles/107161/20160107/marco-rubios-religious-liberty-advisory-board-includes-immigration-reform-advocate.htm

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Pastor Rick Warren joins board advising Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign

Rick Warren, the nationally prominent Orange County pastor who founded Saddleback Church, has agreed to serve on a board that is advising the presidential campaign of GOP Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.

Warren will advise Rubio and his campaign on domestic and international religious liberty as a member of the board, which includes people from a variety of professional backgrounds with diverse theological traditions, said Eric Teetsel, director of faith outreach for the Rubio campaign.

Teetsel told the Register on Monday that Warren was selected because he is “one of the nation’s foremost advocates of religious liberty.”

Warren, whose Lake Forest-based megachurch has spread to 12 Southern California campuses and four international campuses, said participation on the board does not amount to an endorsement of Rubio. The pastor said it is public knowledge he has never endorsed a political candidate and doesn’t intend to.

“It is not my job as a pastor to endorse candidates,” Warren said. “But I do offer private counsel and perspective to any candidate who asks for it. I have done this with many candidates in the past. In this election cycle, I know most of the candidates on both sides who are running for president, and many have been friends for years, but they all know that I never endorse.”

The advisory board was created to ensure that Rubio and his team are being advised by America’s top experts on religious liberty, Teetsel said.

Although he hasn’t endorsed candidates, Warren is no stranger to national politics. In January 2009, he gave the invocation for President-elect Barack Obama.

Over the years, he also has interviewed several notable national and international speakers as part of his Civil Forums at Saddleback Church.

In 2008, Warren hosted his first presidential campaign forum, between Obama and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

In August 2012, Warren canceled a Civil Forum planned with Obama and presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney at Saddleback Church because of what Warren saw as uncivil discourse between the two campaigns. Instead, he planned a forum on the importance of religious freedom that year.

In an interview with the Register at the time, Warren spoke about the importance of religious freedom.

“This issue is more significant and has far greater implications for America’s future,” he said. “People have forgotten that America was founded by people who came here to escape religious persecution. Freedom of religion is the first freedom mentioned in the Bill of Rights – before freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom to assemble and every other freedom.”

Original post can be read here: http://www.ocregister.com/articles/warren-699485-religious-rubio.html

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Evangelical Theologian Wayne Grudem Endorses Marco Rubio

Evangelical theologian Wayne Grudem endorsed Republican presidential candidate Senator Marco Rubio.

Grudem, professor of theology and biblical studies at Phoenix Seminary, directed The Christian Post to a statement he issued last week in support of Fla. Sen. Rubio, calling him “a reliable, thoughtful, articulate conservative who seems to me more knowledgeable than any other candidate on the important issues facing the nation.”

“Rubio is a winsome, likable candidate who has the best chance of soundly defeating Hillary Clinton. He is equally fluent in Spanish and English, which will be a huge asset with Hispanic voters in the general election,” stated Grudem.
“He does not come across as harsh but as reasonable and thoughtful in his defense of conservative positions. And his own words about his personal faith seem to me, as an Evangelical, to indicate a genuine belief in Christ as his own Savior and Lord.”

Grudem’s endorsement comes as he was tapped by the Rubio campaign to be part of an advisory board on religious liberty issues.

Joining Grudem on the advisory board are Rick Warren, pastor at Saddleback Church; Thomas S. Kidd, professor of history at Baylor University; and the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.

In an earlier interview with CP, Rev. Rodriguez explained that his involvement did not necessarily mean that he will endorse Rubio for president.

“My participation as an advisor on religious liberty issues to Senator Marco Rubio does not in any way, form, or shape indicate a de facto endorsement of his candidacy,” said Rodriguez.

“The NHCLC will never endorse any political candidate for any political party. Samuel Rodriguez the citizen, not as president of the NHCLC, but Samuel Rodriguez American citizen will be endorsing a candidate for the general election but not during the primaries.”

Regarding his involvement with the advisory board, Grudem told CP that he decided to become involved because of his belief that religious liberty is an important current issue.

“I think the issue of protecting religious liberty is crucial in our nation at this time,” explained Grudem to CP.

“Sen. Rubio understands and shares the concerns of evangelical Christians on this matter, and I appreciate the opportunity to give some input to his campaign on this issue.”

Grudem’s comments come as Republican and Democrat candidates ready for the Iowa causes, which will take place Feb. 1 in a heavily Evangelical state.

According to a Real Clear Politics average of polls, among GOP hopefuls Rubio is in third place, trailing behind Senator Ted Cruz and billionaire real estate mogul Donald Trump.
Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/evangelical-theologian-wayne-grudem-endorses-marco-rubio-154737/#Obestuhix261H9DS.99

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Latino Conservatives Hope to Boost Marco Rubio in Texas Primary

HOUSTON – With two polls showing Ted Cruz’s double-digit leads in Texas over Marco Rubio, a string of conservative Hispanics hoped to give Rubio a boost with their endorsements.

Massey Villarreal, a Houston businessman and Republican donor, threw his support behind Rubio many weeks ago, before the New Hampshire primary.

But he has been working to gather more support for Rubio with other conservative Hispanics who object to the immigration views of Donald Trump and Cruz and believe Rubio is the only candidate who can win the Latino vote.
“There’s a movement afoot here in Texas to start circling the wagon to support Marco Rubio,” Villarreal said Thursday, just hours before the GOP candidates were to face off in a debate at University of Houston.

Villarreal told NBC News Latino that four of six GOP Hispanic state lawmakers planned to back Rubio publicly on Friday. The other two did not plan to endorse, he said.

A statewide Houston Public Media and University of Houston poll and a separate Monmouth University poll showed Cruz ahead in his home state. A winner who gets more than 50 percent of the vote could take all of Texas’ 155 delegates, but that is not expected to happen. In that case, the delegates will be divided proportionally.
Members of the Hispanic Conservative Roundtable, a group of GOP Latino leaders, planned a news conference here Friday with several leaders who were to endorse Rubio.

The news conference was to follow a closed-door meeting similar to ones held by the group in Boulder, Colorado and Las Vegas.

It was after the Boulder meeting that the group first publicly condemned Donald Trump, saying he was not a candidate they could support in their community. They later also publicly rebuked Cruz after a staffer told him his immigration plan regarding the 11 million people in the country illegally would be “attrition through enforcement,” which many considered similar to the self-deportation plan failed GOP candidate Mitt Romney proposed.

Villarreal said Rubio was someone Hispanics could at least “nudge” on the issue of immigration

The meeting was to include the Rev. Tony Suarez, executive vice president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, whose group included 40,000 Latino evangelical churches.

Original article can be read here: http://www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/texas-conservatives-hope-boost-marco-rubio-texas-primary-n525876

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Conservative Hispanics back Rubio

A group of conservative Hispanics have thrown their support behind Marco Rubio and are asking other candidates to get out of the 2016 presidential race and back him too.

“Not only did we endorse Marco Rubio, we called on Ben Carson, Gov. [John] Kasich and Sen. [Ted] Cruz to drop out of the race and rally behind Marco,” Alfonso Aguilar, president of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles and a former official in the George W. Bush administration, told POLITICO on Friday.

“We think that Rubio can win the nomination, but we have too many candidates, and [Donald] Trump’s winning by default, and if they get out and rally behind Marco,” Rubio can beat Trump, he said. Rubio has the best chance of winning the general election, he added.
According to a statement, other conservative Hispanics backing Rubio include Massey Villarreal, co-chair of the Hispanic Conservative Roundtable and former chair of the National Republican Hispanic Assembly and the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; the Rev. Tony Suarez, executive vice president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; and dozens of representatives from other organizations.

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated Aguilar’s group affiliation. It also included a reference to Mario Lopez and the Hispanic Leadership Fund backing Rubio, which was incorrect.
Read more: http://www.politico.com/blogs/2016-gop-primary-live-updates-and-results/2016/02/conservative-hispanics-back-marco-rubio-219865#ixzz41Nruye5z

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Marco Rubio Targets Hispanic Voters in South, Central Florida

HIALEAH, Fla.—As Florida Sen. Marco Rubio fights to keep his presidential bid alive by winning the Republican primary in his home state on March 15, he needs to perform strongly with one group in particular: Hispanics in southern and central Florida.

On Wednesday, he sought to whip up supporters in this city northwest of Miami where the population is 95% Hispanic, mostly Cuban-American like him.

“This race is going to be very hard-fought, and the difference will be made here in South Florida,” he told a crowd gathered at a stadium, speaking in Spanish. “You need to turn out to vote at an overwhelming, historic level.”

Florida is a winner-take-all state. The candidate who wins the most votes, wins all 99 of the state’s delegates.

In Mr. Rubio’s home county of Miami-Dade, which includes Hialeah, Hispanics make up 73% of the 354,000 registered Republicans, by far the largest trove of such votes, according to the Florida division of elections. To offset businessman Donald Trump’s perceived strength in parts of northern and central Florida, Mr. Rubio “needs to pile up votes in South Florida,” said Susan MacManus, a professor at the University of South Florida.

Leading Cuban-American elected officials, including U.S. Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, endorsed him after former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush dropped out of the race.As Mr. Rubio was suffering a string of losses in the Super Tuesday states on March 1, he flew to Miami to rally a crowd at Tropical Park. He has returned repeatedly since then, and will participate in a GOP debate with the three other GOP candidates at the University of Miami on Thursday night.

Conservative Solutions PAC, a political committee backing Mr. Rubio, has run a Spanish-language TV ad urging Miami Latinos to help “one of our own be the next president.” Another group, Cuba Democracy Public Advocacy, has run a Spanish-language radio ad featuring Willy Chirino, a Cuban-American singer, saying, “Marco fills us with pride” and “carries with him our hopes and dreams.”

Mr. Rubio is reaching out not only to Cuban-Americans but to other Hispanic groups whose numbers are increasing. On Wednesday, an organization called Venezuelans with Marco Rubio held a press conference to laud his efforts to combat human-rights violations in their home country, and aired a message Mr. Rubio recorded for them in Spanish in which he assured them he would “continue working in support of the liberty, democracy and respect for human rights of the Venezuelan people.”

Latino voter enthusiasm in Miami-Dade appears significant. So far, 19% of Hispanic registered Republicans in the county have cast early ballots—in-person or absentee—compared to 15% of Florida Republicans as a whole, according to an analysis by Daniel Smith, a professor at the University of Florida.

“Hispanic Republicans in Miami-Dade are over-performing,” he said. “For those discounting Rubio, I think it’s premature.”

Though it is impossible to know how many of those votes are for Mr. Rubio, analysts say it is likely that most of them are. A recentMonmouth University poll found that the non-white Republican electorate, mostly Cuban-Americans and other Hispanics, appeared to prefer Mr. Rubio over Mr. Trump, but the sample sizes were too small to provide exact percentages.

Still, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who also is Cuban-American, is making a play for the same bloc. On Wednesday, he held a rally in Miami at which one of the speakers was Manny Roman, the Hispanic vice chairman of the Republican Party of Miami-Dade County who endorsed Mr. Cruz in December.

“Y’all know how to make a Cuban feel welcome,” Mr. Cruz told the crowd.

In central Florida, a much smaller but still important chunk of Hispanic Republican votes lies in the Orlando area, which has a booming Puerto Rican population. Hispanics make up 12% of the 200,000 registered Republicans in Orange County, which includes Orlando, and 22% of the 43,000 in Osceola County, which encompasses the Puerto Rican bastion of Kissimmee.

In Orange County, only 9% of Hispanic registered Republicans have cast early ballots so far, meaning they are under-performing compared to the statewide GOP average, according to Mr. Smith’s analysis.

The urgency to drive up turnout in the primary next week dominated remarks by a bevy of Cuban-American elected officials who preceded Mr. Rubio on the stage in Miami on Wednesday. “Every time Hialeah, South Florida has gone out to vote, we have won elections,” said Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez.

Among Mr. Rubio’s supporters in the crowd was Rolando Perez, a 73-year-old retiree who lives in nearby Opa-Locka. Only the Florida senator “can straighten out this country,” from improving the economy to taking stronger stances with hostile foreign governments, he said. Mr. Trump, he added, is “an old crazy man” who “speaks badly about everyone.”

Mr. Rubio already has Mr. Perez’s vote in the bag. The Opa-Locka resident mailed in his absentee ballot just a few days ago.

Because the Florida senator has been trailing the billionaire businessman by anywhere from 8 to 23 percentage points in recent polls, he needs to stand out in Thursday night’s debate.

“He’s got a great home-field advantage,” said David Johnson, a Republican consultant in Tallahassee. But “he needs a game-changing” performance.

Mr. Rubio batted away rumors that he was planning to drop out of the contest, calling them “categorically false.”

“I will continue to be a candidate,” he said. “In this community, we never give up.”

Earlier this week, Mr. Rubio campaigned in the Orlando area, holding a rally at an airport hangar in Sanford and visiting a Puerto Rican bakery in Kissimmee. And he recently won the GOP primary in Puerto Rico by a landslide, an accomplishment that could boost him on the mainland.

“It’s all hands on deck,” said Bertica Cabrera Morris, a regional chairman for Mr. Rubio’s 2010 Senate campaign in central Florida who is now volunteering for his presidential run. “We believe Marco represents the Hispanic community better than any other campaign today.”

On Wednesday, a coalition of Latino conservative groups, including the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles and the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, held a press conference in Orlando to urge voters to stop Mr. Trump by voting for Mr. Rubio.

Original article can be read here: http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2016/03/10/marco-rubio-targets-hispanic-voters-in-south-central-florida/

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