Mitt Romney had no time to warm up Wednesday night before he was asked onstage in Coral Gables about his hidden-video remarks where he suggested that 47 percent of taxpayers were moochers.
Those taxpayers include veterans, Univisions Jorge Ramos pointed out.
Romney was ready.
This is a campaign about the 100 percent. And over the last several years, youve seen greater and greater divisiveness in this country, he said at the Gran Encuentro event at the University of Miami, which was broadcast later Wednesday by the Spanish-language, Doral-based powerhouse network.
We had hoped to come back together, Romney said. But instead youve seen us pulled apart. And politics has driven us apart in some respects.
The Republican presidential candidate never explicitly blamed President Barack Obama by name, but he soon ticked off the troubles of the past four years: 47 million people on food stamps, 23 million people out of work or under-employed, high poverty rates.
Romney said he would do better. "My campaign is about the 100 percent of Americans," he reiterated.
I have a record, Romney said. Ive demonstrated my capacity to help the 100 percent when I was governor.
Ear-splitting applause not the last rippled through the friendly crowd of Romney supporters gathered at UMs BankUnited Center. The rest of the 35-minute interview with Ramos and co-host Maria Elena Salinas followed suit. Later Wednesday, Romney held a rally aimed at Hispanics.
Ramos, Salinas and a few audience members questioned Romney on immigration, education and the economy, though they had little time to delve into specifics.
A comfortable Romney stayed on message, tailoring his remarks at times to the national Spanish-speaking audience. The mention of the recently released surreptitious video of the May fundraiser in Boca Raton fell off the agenda from that point on.
But that doesnt mean his remarks about nearly half the taxpaying public will die.
President Obama appears at the same event on Thursday, where he plans to stay for an entire hour.
The president is likely to reference the video in which Romney said he wouldnt get the vote of the 47 percent of people who dont pay income taxes because theyre dependent upon government [and] who believe that that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that theyre entitled to healthcare, to food, to housing, to you name it.
Romney has admitted that his comments made last May at a fundraiser in Boca Raton were not elegantly stated and were off the cuff, but he has stood by them.
The Republicans campaign has unearthed its own recording of Obama, made in 1998, when the then-Illinois state senator said I actually believe in redistribution at least a certain level to make sure that everybodys got a shot.
To Republicans, its evidence that Obama believes in too much government.
I dont want to redistribute wealth in America. I want to create wealth, Romney said.
If the applause and Romneys performance are any measure, Wednesdays event will probably help him. But he faces a tough challenge in winning Hispanic votes.
A FOX poll of likely Florida voters released just before the event showed Obama leading Romney 58-37 percent among Hispanics. Overall, Obama has an inside-the-error-margin lead of 49-44 over Romney, who plans to use his two-day Florida swing to raise an estimated $7 million.