WASHINGTON -- Ana Navarro, a blunt and sometimes outrageous GOP operative from Coral Gables, sounded miserable last month amid Washington’s frigid winter, running around in her Jimmy Choo heels between CNN appearances and gala parties surrounding the president she wanted to defeat.
“Whoever invented Spanx should be hired by CIA to run Enhanced Torture Methods,” @ananavarro tweeted. “I might die of asphyxia before I get to Latino Ball.”
Navarro, 41, lacks much of a filter.
It’s a trait that makes her a sought-after voice in Republican politics and an adviser for any presidential hopeful. She often drives her own party bananas, but with confidants Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio she is poised to play a big role in the GOP response to immigration reform and Hispanic outreach.
“One minute she can be the most attractive person and the next very disagreeable,” said a chuckling Sen. John McCain, a close friend of Navarro’s and her boss during his 2008 presidential campaign. “She’s plainspoken and she loves controversy — whatever the topic may be, whether it’s Mitt Romney’s problems or John McCain’s problems.”
Long a behind-the-scenes political player, Navarro these days is often showing off her frankness and impeccable fashion style on cable TV. Last year, CNN and CNN en Espanol hired her as a political analyst.
“I get paid to talk politics, which I’ve done my entire life and I would do for free anyway,” she marvelled.
Navarro stands out for her willingness to criticize fellow Republicans. She was the first prominent Florida Republican to attack Gov. Charlie Crist for endorsing the $700-billion stimulus plan. (“If they got Charlie Crist in a dark alley, all you’d have left is a tuft of white hair,” Navarro said of Republicans in Congress unwilling to say so themselves.)
In 2010, she rescinded her support for gubernatorial candidate Bill McCollum after he shifted hard right on immigration. And in November, after seeing the long voter lines in Miami, she called Gov. Rick Scott directly to urge him to extend early voting.
She repeatedly criticized the Romney campaign’s outreach to Hispanic voters as anemic or invisible (“Mitt Romney self-deported himself from the White House,” she tweeted on election night), prompting horrified Romney officials to press Navarro’s friends to persuade her to zip her trap. Those who knew her best didn’t bother.
“I knew it was a waste of time,” said Al Cardenas, chairman of the American Conservative Union and a longtime friend of Navarro’s from Miami. “Ana has a passion about her, and she’s not going to be intimidated or coerced into doing anything other than what’s right in her mind.”
In the 1980s, the first-year law student at University of Miami campaigned for aid to the Contras in her native Nicaragua. The daughter of a well-off family in the agriculture business — her father was an early opponent of Anastasio Somoza who went on to fight against leftist revolutionaries — she moved to Miami at age 8 to escape the violence.
“I became a Republican before I knew what a Republican even was because of Ronald Reagan,” she said, recalling the president’s solidarity with the Contra counterinsurgency fighting the Sandinistas.