MARIA HINOJOSA: Welcome to this special edition of Need to Know. Like both presidential candidates – we have made many visits to Florida during the 2012 campaign. And for good reason. With 29 electoral college votes, it is by far the biggest swing state prize on November 6th. Both Governor Romney and President Obama are fighting hard for it. Somewhat predictably, the future of entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare get a lot of attention here. And both candidates are understandably trying to win over the senior vote with their respective plans.
But that’s not the only voting block they are going after, nor the only one that wields power in the sunshine state. In many parts of the nation, the Latino vote is a growing force. Nationally the latest polls show President Obama leading by a wide margin in that community. Here in Florida, Latinos make up roughly 1 in 7 registered voters. How they might vote, as we discovered, is anything but predictable.
BERTICA CABRERA MORRIS: Que bueno! How are you? Good to see you.
MARIA HINOJOSA (narration): BERTICA CABRERA MORRIS MAY HAVE ONE OF THE TOUGHEST JOBS IN THIS ELECTION SEASON.
BERTICA CABRERA MORRIS: This lady was here for a long time. Come here. …
MARIA HINOJOSA (narration): THIS 55 YEAR-OLD CUBAN AMERICAN IS VOLUNTEERING HER TIME – DAY IN AND DAY OUT – TRYING TO TURN THE TIDE OF FLORIDA’S LATINO VOTERS AND GET THEM TO SUPPORT MITT ROMNEY.
BERTICA CABRERA MORRIS: I am a Hispanic woman from a very little town in Cuba called Ciularia
(sp). And today I’m able to run a business. I’m also able to help the next president of the United States.
BERTICA CABRERA MORRIS: This was the past 12 years…
MARIA HINOJOSA (narration): CABRERA-MORRIS IS A POLITICAL CONSULTANT IN CENTRAL FLORIDA, AND QUITE A MOVER AND SHAKER IN LATINO POLITICS HERE. MANY REPUBLICANS HAVE SOUGHT OUT HER SUPPORT…
BERTICA CABRERA MORRIS: Governor Bush.. was my first. I believed in him.
MARIA HINOJOSA: Dick Cheney—
BERTICA CABRERA MORRIS: Dick Cheney. And McCain–
MARIA HINOJOSA (narration): AND THIS YEAR, SHE’S BACKING ROMNEY. SHE HAD A REAL KINSHIP WITH HIM: THEY BOTH RAN THEIR OWN BUSINESSES…
BERTICA CABRERA MORRIS: He’s a statesman. You know, he’s a C.E.O..
MARIA HINOJOSA (narration): EACH OF THEM HAVE FIVE CHILDREN… THEY’RE BOTH DEVOUTLY RELIGIOUS, THOUGH SHE’S CATHOLIC TO HIS MORMON…
BERTICA CABRERA MORRIS: I think that Governor Romney has the same values of a Hispanic. For an example – church, marriage, family, business. I feel very at home with him.
MARIA HINOJOSA (narration): BUT FOR HER, IT’S NOT JUST THE PERSONAL SIMILARITIES THAT MATTER…
BERTICA CABRERA MORRIS: Where’s the United States of America flag?
MARIA HINOJOSA (narration): SHE BELIEVES ROMNEY HAS A PLAN TO FIX THE ECONOMY… A PLAN THAT CAN PULL IN MORE LATINO VOTERS.
BERTICA CABRERA MORRIS: They want to have a president that is gonna help them with the economy. It’s all about jobs. So in their case, if you give us somebody that can produce a better economy we’re gonna go vote for them.
MARIA HINOJOSA (narration): CABRERA-MORRIS WORKS IN ORLANDO, FLORIDA – AN AREA THAT’S NOT ONLY ONE OF THE MOST HOTLY CONTESTED STRETCHES OF REAL ESTATE IN THIS PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN.
RADIO AD: Soy Mitt Romney, estoy postulando para presidente
MARIA HINOJOSA (narration): BUT IT’S ALSO BECOME GROUND ZERO FOR THE FIGHT FOR LATINO VOTERS.
TV AD: Soy Barack Obama, y yo…
TV AD: Mitt Romney…
MARIA HINOJOSA (narration): LOCAL TV IN FLORIDA HAS BEEN BLANKETED FOR MONTHS WITH WALL-TO-WALL CAMPAIGN ADS… MANY OF THEM AIMED DIRECTLY AT LATINO VOTERS.
OBAMA advertisement: Soy Barack Obama…
MARIA HINOJOSA (narration): ORLANDO SITS IN THE MIDDLE OF WHAT’S KNOWN AS THE “I-4 CORRIDOR” – WHICH STRETCHES ACROSS CENTRAL FLORIDA FROM DAYTONA BEACH TO TAMPA. AND THE ECONOMY OF CENTRAL FLORIDA DOES SEEMS LIKE FERTILE GROUND FOR THE GOP. WITH THOUSANDS OF FORECLOSURES… SHUTTERED BUSINESSES… AND UNUSUALLY HIGH UNEMPLOYMENT. BUT WHILE THE ECONOMY WAS A CONCERN FOR EVERYONE WE MET… SOME VOTERS ARGUED THAT OBAMA DOESN’T DESERVE THE BLAME… IN FACT, THEY SAY HE DESERVES SOME CREDIT.
RAY RIVERA: I’m gonna vote for Obama. And it’s you know, I kinda look at it as one more chance, you know. But to me, the man has done more than anybody could have anticipated, because he was handed a mess. He still has a mess, but I just can’t fathom the thought of where we would be if he didn’t do what he’s done so far.
MARIA HINOJOSA (narration): RAY RIVERA IS A MAN WHO’S EXPERIENCED THE ROUGH ROAD OF THIS ECONOMY FIRSTHAND. HE’S A 53 YEAR-OLD PUERTO RICAN WHO LIVES JUST NORTH OF TAMPA. HE’S WORKING NOW AS A CLERK AT A CABLE REPAIR COMPANY, BUT HE’D BEEN OUT OF A JOB FOR OVER A YEAR. THANKS TO UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS, FOOD STAMPS, AND A FEDERAL PROGRAM TO HELP STRUGGLING HOMEOWNERS, HE WAS ABLE TO AVOID THE ECONOMIC DISASTER THAT HIT SO MANY OF HIS NEIGHBORS.
RAY RIVERA: There are many, many homes in my neighborhood that are foreclosed and vacant. The house next to me is on auction, the house across the street from me is vacant. The house across the corner, and one house up, is also vacant. These are all my neighbors that I had for ten, 15 years.
RAY RIVERA: See ya Tony.
MARIA HINOJOSA (narration): THOUGH HE’S MAKING LESS THAN HE USED TO, RIVERA’S SLOWLY GETTING BACK ON HIS FEET. HE SAYS HE’S GOING TO VOTE FOR OBAMA BECAUSE HE THINKS DEMOCRATS ARE MORE CONCERNED ABOUT WORKING FAMILIES… AND THEY’LL LEVEL WHAT HE SAYS IS AN UNFAIR TAX SYSTEM.
RAY RIVERA: To have the middle class pay all the taxes, and have tax breaks given to the ones who are the wealthiest, to me, seems very unfair. To me, being able to take care of the nation’s needs, that, to me, is the most important thing.
MARIA HINOJOSA (narration): AS A PUERTO RICAN VOTER, RAY RIVERA REPRESENTS ONE OF THE BIGGEST DEMOGRAPHIC AND POLITICAL SHIFTS IN LATINO VOTING IN FLORIDA. AND… GIVEN FLORIDA’S PRIMACY IN PRESIDENTIAL POLITICS, HOW THE RAY RIVERAS OF THE WORLD VOTE COULD HAVE MAJOR IMPLICATIONS.
LUIS MARTINEZ-FERNANDEZ: Usually, when people were interested in Hispanic or Latino politics in Florida, they thought about Miami. And that was for a good reason. Miami had a huge concentration of Cubans and Cuban Americans, and they were dominant as far as Latino politics, for the longest time, going back at least to the mid-1970s.
MARIA HINOJOSA (narration): LUIS MARTINEZ-FERNANDEZ TEACHES HISTORY AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CENTRAL FLORIDA IN ORLANDO. HE SAYS THOSE CUBANS IN MIAMI WERE OVERWHELMINGLY REPUBLICAN AND OFTEN TIPPED FLORIDA TO THE GOP. BUT THAT’S NOW CHANGED BECAUSE OF THE DRAMATIC GROWTH OF LATINO VOTERS UP ALONG THAT I-4 CORRIDOR. AMONG THEM ARE IMMIGRANTS FROM MEXICO, VENEZUELA, THE DOMINCAN REPUBLIC AND COLOMBIA. BUT THE MAJORITY OF THESE NEW VOTERS ARE PUERTO RICANS -– WHO ARE U.S. CITIZENS BY BIRTH – AND A MAJORITY OF THEM ARE DEMOCRATS.
LUIS MARTINEZ-FERNANDEZ: So what we’re seeing now– a few weeks out of the election – is that we have reached that tipping point where the Democratic vote, predominantly Puerto Rican, has already neutralized the Cuban vote.
PRESIDENT OBAMA (speech): They pledge allegiance to our flag…
MARIA HINOJOSA (narration): WHAT’S MORE, THIS PAST JUNE SAW PERHAPS THE SINGLE BIGGEST MOVE BY PRESIDENT OBAMA THAT COULD PAY HUGE DIVIDENDS IN SECURING LATINO SUPPORT IN FLORIDA, AND NATIONWIDE.
PRESIDENT OBAMA (speech): They were brought to this country by their parents, sometimes even as infants…
MARIA HINOJOSA (narration): THAT’S WHEN PRESIDENT OBAMA ANNOUNCED THAT HE WOULD ALLOW MOST YOUNG IMMIGRANTS – THOSE WHO CAME TO THE U.S. AS CHILDREN WITHOUT PAPERS — TO APPLY FOR LEGAL WORK PERMITS. OBAMA’S MOVE CAME AS A SURPRISE TO MANY, ESPECIALLY BECAUSE UP TO THAT POINT, THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION HAD BEEN DEPORTING RECORD NUMBERS OF IMMIGRANTS – ROUGHLY 400,000 EACH YEAR. DESPITE THAT, OBAMA’S ANNOUNCEMENT RECEIVED OVERWHELMING SUPPORT FROM LATINOS. BUT FOR REPUBLICANS LIKE BERTICA CABRERA MORRIS…
BERTICA CABRERA MORRIS: There’s a little lady over there without a sign…
MARIA HINOJOSA (narration): THE PRESIDENT’S MOVE — BEFORE THE ELECTION, AND AFTER YEARS OF INACTION – FEELS LIKE A POLITICAL PLOY.
BERTICA CABRERA MORRIS: I think that the Democratic Party just pandered to us three months ago, giving us an immigration policy that really had no– you know, why didn’t they do this before? If you love me, don’t tell me you love me when you need me, tell me you love me a year ago, or three years ago, when you could.
MARIA HINOJOSA (narration): HISTORIAN LUIS MARTINEZ-FERNANDEZ SAYS – REGARDLESS OF THE MERITS OF OBAMA’S ACTION – THIS MOVE HIGHLIGHTED FOR MANY LATINO VOTERS THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE PARTIES ON THE ISSUE OF IMMIGRATION… AND IN THAT COMPARISON, HE SAYS, REPUBLICANS SUFFERED BADLY.
LUIS MARTINEZ-FERNANDEZ: They’ve heard things such as “self-deportation.” They’ve seen how states like Arizona and other states, Alabama, have created these laws that are very hostile to immigrants and to Hispanics in general. You can’t escape that. The party goes in one direction, there will be consequences. And that is what we’re seeing. The Republican Party has the lowest support among Hispanics in this country that it has ever had, precisely at a time when that Hispanic vote is essential for any party to win the elections.
MARIA HINOJOSA (narration): FOR ONE FAMILY WE MET IN CENTRAL FLORIDA, PRESIDENT OBAMA’S DECISION HAD A DIRECT IMPACT. 18 YEAR-OLD DAVID VELAZQUEZ – WHO’S FAMILY IS FROM COLOMBIA – SAYS HE AND HIS RELATIVES AREN’T USUALLY INTERESTED IN POLITICS… SOME HADN’T EVEN REGISTERED TO VOTE. BUT WHEN OBAMA’S ANNOUNCEMENT CAME OUT, THAT ALL CHANGED. WHY? BECAUSE OF DAVID’S 19 YEAR-OLD UNCLE – JUAN SOTO AVELLA. JUAN CAME TO THE U.S. FROM COLOMBIA WITH HIS PARENTS (WHO WERE SEEKING POLITICAL ASYLUM) WHEN HE WAS JUST TEN YEARS OLD. NOW, BECAUSE OF OBAMA’S MOVE… JUAN CAN POSSIBLY STAY LEGALLY IN THIS COUNTRY.
JUAN SOTO-AVELLA: I actually teared up, of happiness.
MARIA HINOJOSA (narration): JUAN IS A SOPHMORE AT A NEARBY COLLEGE… A STRAIGHT “A” STUDENT… AND PRESIDENT OF THE STUDENT BODY. HE WAS DOING HIS HOMEWORK WHEN HE HEARD THE NEWS ABOUT OBAMA’S ACTION.
JUAN SOTO-AVELLA: Just the thought of havin’ that opportunity to contribute back to the society, to be able to work, to be able to just kinda have that—that feeling – that grasp of—of –of the American dream.
DAVID VELASQUEZ: It affects me directly ’cause it’s not only like my uncle, it’s like my brother. I’ve made up my mind who I’m gonna vote for. Obama is obviously right now the most supportive candidate for my family and me.
MARIA HINOJOSA (narration): AND HE’S NOT ALONE — NATIONAL POLLS SHOW LATINOS ACROSS THE COUNTRY FAVORING OBAMA OVER ROMNEY BY LARGE MARGINS.
MARIA HINOJOSA: The numbers right now look like they’re not in favor of your candidate, Romney?
BERTICA CABRERA MORRIS: Maria, I don’t believe it. I don’t believe that. I don’t see that in the people in the community. I don’t see that in the cars. You know, I see Romney, Romney, Romney– signs. And then you see an old Obama sticker. I don’t see that in the street. I don’t see when I go knock door-to-door. People are hurting.
MARIA HINOJOSA (narration): CABRERA MORRIS SAYS, IF YOU DON’T THINK ROMNEY’S ECONOMIC MESSAGE IS TAKING ROOT WITH LATINOS, GO TALK WITH SOMEONE LIKE HER GOOD FRIEND FERNANDO PEREZ.
FERNANDO PEREZ: This election is about an economic recovery. It’s about the future of my kids.
MARIA HINOJOSA (narration): PEREZ IS A 37 YEAR-OLD MARRIED FATHER OF THREE – HE’S PUERTO RICAN, AND GREW UP ON THE ISLAND IN A POLITICALLY CONSERVATIVE FAMILY. HE NOW WORKS IN SALES FOR A MEDICAL COMPANY IN ORLANDO. FOR HIM, PRESIDENT OBAMA’S INABILITY TO SHARPLY REDUCE UNEMPLOYMENT IS ONE OF THE MAIN REASONS TO VOTE HIM OUT OF OFFICE.
FERNANDO PEREZ: We’ve got unemployment on the Hispanic population over 10%. You know, there’s twenty-three million Americans looking for work. So, you know, the future’s pretty grim right now There’s two million more Hispanics in poverty levels than there were before. So, no matter how pretty your words are, you know, you got to show me some execution.
MARIA HINOJOSA (narration): RONALD REAGAN ONCE FAMOUSLY SAID THAT “HISPANICS ARE REPUBLICANS. THEY JUST DON’T KNOW IT YET.” MANY IN THE GOP ARGUE THAT LATINOS SHARE MANY OF THE SAME CONSERVATIVE BELIEFS AS THEIR PARTY – ON THINGS LIKE FISCAL ISSUES AND FAMILY VALUES.
MARIA HINOJOSA: So when you think back about what Ronald Reagan said, you believe that’s true?
BERTICA CABRERA MORRIS: Well, that’s how I became an American citizen. I didn’t know what Republican or Democrats were. I just saw one day this man speaking. He was my governor. I lived in California. And I said, “What is this? What party is he?” And they said, “He’s a Republican.” I said, “Okay, that’s what I am.”
MARIA HINOJOSA (narration): BUT REAGAN WASN’T JUST TALKING ABOUT ECONOMICS. IT’S ALSO TRUE THAT LATINOS ARE MORE SOCIALLY CONSERVATIVE AND MORE RELIGIOUS THAN OTHER AMERICANS. AND.. AS WE FOUND HERE IN FLORIDA… FAITH AND POLITICS CAN INTERSECT IN COMPLICATED WAYS
ON THE SURFACE, HERMAN AND ARLENE TIRADO – BOTH PUERTO RICAN – WOULD SEEM LIKELY TO VOTE DEMOCRATIC. HERMAN’S BEEN UNEMPLOYED FOR OVER A YEAR, AND RECEIVED LOTS OF GOVERNMENT HELP, LIKE UNEMPLOYMENT AND FOOD STAMP BENEFITS. ARLENE HAS MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS AND HAS BEEN RECEIVING SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY BENEFITS FOR MANY YEARS. SO, ON THAT FRONT, YOU’D THINK THEY’D BACK THE PARTY WHICH HAS OFTEN CHAMPIONED THOSE PROGRAMS.
BUT THE TIRADOS ARE ALSO PENTECOSTAL CHRISTIANS. WHILE MORE THAN 60% OF LATINOS ARE CATHOLIC, HISPANICS ARE ALSO GROWING WITHIN THE RANKS OF EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANS. FOR THE TIRADOS, VOTING IN SYNCH WITH THEIR RELIGIOUS VALUES TAKE PRECEDENCE OVER EVERYTHING ELSE…. AND FOR THEM, THAT MEANS THEY’RE VOTING REPUBLICAN.
HERMAN TIRADO: We began to realize that we’re more towards the conservative side because we come, we both come from a very religious background. And we are very founded in the word and in the bible.
ARLENE TIRADO: We realize that, you know, these issues about abortion and gay marriage also is so important for us. We just believe in the word and believe that those are things that are very important for us.
BERTICA CABRERA MORRIS: I think that actually this is probably one of the strongest points that Governor Romney has. Because in the idea of life, you know, he’s very strong. In the idea of freedom of religion, you know us Catholics — a lot of Hispanics as you know are Catholic– have a big issue over this decision that was part of Obamacare about whether or not Catholic institutions have to pay for birth control. And number three is same-say– same-sex marriage. And the Hispanic community doesn’t embrace any o’ those things.
MARIA HINOJOSA (narration): THAT’S BEEN THE TRADITIONAL VIEW OF LATINOS – THAT THEY’RE VERY CONSERVATIVE ON SOCIAL ISSUES. BUT A PEW HISPANIC POLL RELEASED JUST THIS WEEK SHOWS THAT A MAJORITY OF LATINOS NOW SUPPORT GAY MARRIAGE. WHAT’S MORE, OTHER POLLS SHOW THAT LATINOS RANK ISSUES LIKE JOBS, EDUCATION, IMMIGRATION AND HEALTHCARE AS EVEN MORE IMPORTANT TO THEM. THIS CAN MAKE FOR SOME INTERESTING SPLITS AT THE BALLOT BOX: FOR EXAMPLE, BACK IN 2008, A MAJORITY OF LATINOS IN CALIFORNIA VOTED TO BAN GAY MARRIAGE… BUT THOSE SAME VOTERS ALSO WENT IN LARGE NUMBERS FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA. HERE IN FLORIDA, WE MET ONE YOUNG WOMAN WHO EMBODIES THIS SEEMING CONTRADICTION.
CRISELY MELECIO ZAMBRANO IS A SENIOR AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CENTRAL FLORIDA IN ORLANDO. SHE WAS BORN HERE IN FLORIDA – HER PARENTS ARE DOMINICAN AND VENEZUELAN. ZAMBRANO IS A DEVOUT CATHOLIC – SHE HELPS RUN THE CATHOLIC MINISTRY ON CAMPUS – AND SHE BELIEVES DEEPLY THAT ABORTION IS MORALLY UNJUSTIFIABLE.
CRISELY MELECIO-ZAMBRANO: I was raised in a household where it was very real. It wasn’t just something that was like, “Okay, we’re pro-life.” It was these are human beings at stake and you should be aware of that and do what you can to fight for that.
MARIA HINOJOSA (narration): SO ON THAT BASIS, ZAMBRANO’S CLEARY DRAWN TO SUPPORTING REPUBLICANS. BUT SHE ALSO STRONGLY BELIEVES IN WHAT SHE CALLS THE CATHOLIC CHURCH’S MISSION OF ‘SOCIAL JUSTICE’ – CARING FOR THE POOR AND THE SICK. SHE SAYS THAT TENDS TO DRAW HER TOWARDS DEMOCRATS.
MARIA HINOJOSA: How do you put those things together, then? You’re pro-life on the one hand, but very much social justice. It’s, you know, almost like the Republican and the Democratic side on opposite sides.
CRISELY MELECIO-ZAMBRANO: Yes, absolutely. But in my head, it was always one central issue — fighting for people in the most general sense. So there was no disconnect. And I remember always being so confused as a child because they would tell me, like, the issues of the different presidents, and I would be like, “Wait. Tell me again? Like, the Republicans beli—Wait.” Like, there’s not a box for me! Like, what do I do with that?”
MARIA HINOJOSA: So on the one hand you’re thinking you’re pro-life. You’ve gotta go Republican.
CRISELY MELECIO-ZAMBRANO: But on the other hand, then I also look at once the child is born are they being taken care of? Are their needs being met? And if you disregard that then there’s a huge disconnect.
MARIA HINOJOSA: ‘Cause you kinda think that the Democrats, or President Obama, is more responsible in terms of taking care of the child?
CRISELY MELECIO-ZAMBRANO: Yes. After–
MARIA HINOJOSA: After it’s born.
CRISELY MELECIO-ZAMBRANO: After it’s been born, yes.
MARIA HINOJOSA (narration): CRISELY HAS DECIDED, BUT WOULD RATHER NOT SAY WHO SHE’S VOTING FOR.
JOSE ANGEL RODRIGUEZ: This guy here is Jose Angel Marero Rodrqiguez Sr.
MARIA HINOJOSA (narration): JOSE ANGEL RODRIGUEZ ALSO BELIEVES THAT THE DEMOCRATS PARTY TENDS TO CARE MORE ABOUT THE HEALTH AND WELL-BEING OF PEOPLE LIKE HIM.
JOSE ANGEL RODRIGUEZ: This is my little baby girl, Gabrielle.
MARIA HINOJOSA (narration): THIS 56 YEAR-OLD, ORIGINALLY FROM PUERTO RICO, HAS SPENT NEARLY HIS WHOLE LIFE IN PUBLIC SERVICE. HE WAS IN THE AIR FORCE… HE WAS AN ORLANDO FIREFIGHTER FOR OVER TWENTY YEARS. NOW THAT HE’S RETIRED, HE RECEIVES A $31,000 ANNUAL PENSION. HE ALSO RUNS THE LOCAL LITTLE LEAGUE. WHEN HE’S NOT ON THE BALLFIELD, HE’S OFTEN HERE AT THIS REHAB FACILITY WITH HIS WIFE JANICE. THEY HAVE THREE CHILDREN AND FOUR GRANDCHILDREN. JANICE HAS BEEN IN THIS FACILITY FOR MONTHS – SHE’S BATTLING CANCER, HEART, AND KIDNEY DISEASE. HER CARE HAS BEEN PAID FOR, IN LARGE PART, BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT’S MEDICAID AND MEDICARE PROGRAMS.
JOSE ANGEL RODRIGUEZ: Nobody’s gonna stop me from coming to see you, unless I’m dead, in jail… I love you. That’s my job. Right? That’s what I do. You– what do you give me, give me an A?
JANICE RODRIGUEZ: (mouthing) A-
JOSE ANGEL RODRIGUEZ: A-
JOSE ANGEL RODRIGUEZ: I need Medicare. I ain’t rich. It’s expensive, I know. But what? My wife’s– she had a heart attack. She’s had cancer twice. She’s been sick all her life, you know? People don’t understand how important Medicare is.
MARIA HINOJOSA (narration): RODRIGUEZ BELIEVES HE WAS GOING TO VOTE FOR OBAMA NO MATTER WHAT, BUT HE’S EVEN MORE SURE ABOUT THAT NOW BECAUSE HE SAYS ROMNEY AND THE REPUBLICAN PARTY WANT TO CUT THE PROGRAMS THAT HE AND HIS FAMILY DEPEND ON.
JOSE ANGEL RODRIGUEZ: Health care for everybody is mandatory. It’s like a right. And they wanna take it away ’cause you guys messed up the budget, you know? And now you’re gonna steal my– my– my– my daughter and my grandson’s health care, which was guaranteed by Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy? That’s the Democratic Party of the old, and that’s– and that’s Obama, the new.
ALEXA CASTRO: Sientate, Azaria, sientate—
MARIA HINOJOSA (narration): FOR OTHER LATINO VOTERS IN FLORIDA, THE ELECTION ISN’T ABOUT ONE POLICY DECISION… NOT ABOUT MEDICARE OR EDUCATION OR THE ECONOMY. SOMETIMES… IT’S ABOUT SOMETHING MUCH MORE BASIC. ALEXA CASTRO IS A 37 YEAR-OLD SINGLE MOM WHO LIVES IN WINTER SPRINGS, FLORIDA. SHE GREW UP IN PUERTO RICO IN ONE OF THE TOUGHEST HOUSING PROJECTS ON THE ISLAND. BUT SHE MADE IT OUT, WENT TO COLLEGE, GOT A MASTERS DEGREE, AND NOW WORKS FOR THE GIRL SCOUTS OF AMERICA, HELPING TO DO OUTREACH IN THE LATINO COMMUNITY.
CAMPAIGN AD: <on television> We can’t afford another four years like the last four years.
MARIA HINOJOSA (narration): ALEXA SAYS SHE DOESN’T FOLLOW POLITICS OR THE ISSUES VERY CLOSELY, BUT SHE’S VOTING FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA THIS YEAR, JUST LIKE SHE DID IN 2008. SHE LOVED VOTING FOR THE NATION’S FIRST BLACK PRESIDENT…. SOMEONE WHO LOOKED A LITTLE BIT LIKE HER. BUT THE IMPORTANCE OF THAT SYMBOLISM WAS REALLY DRIVEN HOME FOR HER JUST LAST YEAR.
ALEXA CASTRO: My little one, my four-year-old, out of the blue, she come up to me and, as she caresses her skin, she says, “Mommy, I don’t wanna be brown anymore.” My heart sank. I just stopped. And I looked at her and I said, “What do you mean, mamita?” And she’s like, “I don’t like my color.” This is a four-year-old. She’s like, “I don’t like to be brown.” “So what color do you wanna be? “I wanna be white.” Those were her exact words. “I want to be white.”
MARIA HINOJOSA: And that’s why voting for President Obama became a central issue for you?
ALEXA CASTRO: Absolutely. Absolutely.
MARIA HINOJOSA: You wanted to be able to say to your daughter, “Look at the president. He’s got your skin color”?
ALEXA CASTRO: And “Look at his wife. Look at his little girls. They’re just like you.” He can be a role model for a lot of young minorities who have been thinking that you can only do so much in your life.
MARIA HINOJOSA (narration): JUST A COUPLE OF WEEKS FROM THE ELECTION, AND FLORIDA IS STILL A PRIME DESTINATION FOR THE CANDIDATES.
GOVERNOR ROMNEY WAS HERE TWELVE DAYS AGO…. AND PRESIDENT OBAMA CAME LAST WEEK… OBAMA VISITED AS A SERIES OF POLLS CAME OUT SHOWING THAT HIS LEAD AMONG LATINO VOTERS IN FLORIDA HAD SHRUNK. WHILE THE PRESIDENT STILL HAS A BIG LEAD NATIONWIDE, AMONG FLORIDA’S LATINOS, IT’S MUCH CLOSER.
FOR BERTICA CABRERA MORRIS, THIS IS THE MOMENETUM SHE WAS WAITING FOR… BEFORE WE LEFT FLORIDA, SHE WAS BUSY ORGANIZING ANOTHER ROMNEY EVENT, THIS ONE WITH MITT ROMNEY’S YOUNGEST SON, CRAIG, WHO’S FLUENT IN SPANISH. BERTICA’S FRIEND – AND FELLOW ROMNEY SUPPORTER — FERNANDO PEREZ CAME TOO.
FERNANDO PEREZ: I feel very involved this time. What I’m trying to do is to put in my two cents, and, you know, spread what I believe is my conviction of the best path for our country. And not only for Latinos, but for everybody.
BERTICA CABRERA MORRIS: I believe this is a historical election. I’m passionate about what I’m doing right now more than I have ever been in my many years of life. I’m a woman of faith. And I, before I do anything in my life I pray. And then God will, you know, we’ll see what happens.
MARIA HINOJOSA [narration]: THIS WEEK ONLINE, TAKE PART IN OUR WEEKLY POLL. THE TOPIC: PRESERVING ENTITLEMENT PROGRAMS FOR THE ELDERLY. LET US KNOW WHAT YOU THINK AND WHY. VISIT PBS.ORG/NEED TO KNOW.
MARIA HINOJOSA: I’m Maria Hinojosa. Thanks so much for joining us.