TAMPA, Fla. — Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval on Tuesday addressed Republican convention delegates in what turned out to be a forgettable speech that was panned by the pundits for its stiff delivery.
But Sandoval, a Hispanic, is a high-ranking soldier in the Republican Party's effort to woo minority voters. In an interview with Roll Call before his speech, the governor discussed his role in helping GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney close the gap with a voting bloc that could be key to his prospects in Nevada and other states. In fact, Sandoval, who was elected in 2010, appears to be embracing this role.
“I’m reaching out to the Hispanic community and letting them know that if they work hard, there is great opportunity in this country,” Sandoval said. “I hope that I can inspire Hispanics to know that anything is possible.”
Sandoval, who early in the Republican presidential primary endorsed Texas Gov. Rick Perry, said he plans to spend between now and Election Day making the case that Romney and vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan offer Hispanics their best chance of realizing the American dream. Like other Americans, the governor said, Hispanics are concerned about the economy and the quality of their kids’ education, and there is “no comparison” between Romney and President Barack Obama on those issues.
Sandoval’s ability — and that of other prominent Hispanic Republicans, like New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, who is scheduled to address the GOP convention this evening — to succeed in making this argument, and to make his party more acceptable to ethnic minorities in general, could prove crucial to the viability of his party in future elections.
“I have seen Hispanic business owners and families from backgrounds not unlike my own struggle in this economy,” Sandoval said during Tuesday’s address. “We have overcome economic devastation, defeated mighty oppressors, and lifted up generation after generation of Americans. We can — and we will — do it again. For that is our birthright as members of the American family — white, black, Hispanic, Asian, immigrant or descendant of the Founding Fathers themselves.”
I also talked to Sandoval about the fight between Nevada’s establishment Republicans and those supportive of Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas). A dust-up among delegates backing Romney and Paul spilled over to the convention floor Tuesday during the roll-call vote that nominated the former Massachusetts governor. Sandoval said he expects Republican activists to unify by the time they return home to the Silver State.
“They’re devoted, passionate, committed delegates, and once the convention is over they will be united and supportive of Gov. Romney,” Sandoval said. “I actually think Nevada can be won. I think Gov. Romney has closed the gap significantly.”
Still, Obama has consistently led in most public opinion polls in the state. According to the RealClearPolitics.com average, the president leads Romney 49 percent to 45 percent.
Sandoval did say it is important for any candidate who wants to win in Nevada to take the housing and foreclosure crisis head on. The state was hit hard by the real estate collapse, and voters are looking to the presidential candidates for solutions. “A lot of Nevadans lost their homes,” the governor said.