TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) _ Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said Wednesday that neither Gov. Rick Scott's low approval rating nor the immigration debate will hurt the GOP as it tries to carry crucial Florida in next year's presidential election.
Scott's approval rating has dipped below 30 percent, which has Democrats citing the governor as a reason not to support the GOP. But Priebus said voters won't care.
“He's not on the ballot and I don't think that a governor that's been there for two years is going to affect what people think about the direction of our country and who sits in the White House,'' Priebus said during a conference call with reporters to discuss Florida's role in 2012.
But he did say another politician who will have only been in office for two years and who also may not be on the ballot could play a role in helping Republicans: Sen. Marco Rubio.
Rubio, who some speculate could be a potential vice presidential pick, is among several Republican Hispanic politicians who Priebus said could excite Latino voters. Others included Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez.
“We've got Marco Rubio there in Florida, who's an absolute star,'' Priebus said. “We have the political stars of the Hispanic community in our party. They are the rising stars and they're with us and they're going to help us communicate this message across America.''
He dismissed the idea that the party's support among Latinos will be hurt over immigration.
“It's not going to hurt us one bit,'' he said. “Obviously were going to focus in on the economy, which transcends all background.''
The Democratic National Committee quickly responded.
“Republicans have abandoned Hispanics over the far right and have offered nothing but slurs against immigrants, supported a far-right patchwork of unworkable immigration laws and revoking birthright citizenship, all while opposing every effort by President Obama to move forward on common-sense immigration measures,'' said Iris Martinez, the DNC's Hispanic caucus chair. “If Priebus thinks Hispanics are not paying attention, he needs to wake up and pay attention.''
Democratic Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said the idea of Scott being a nonfactor is “wishful thinking.''
“Chairman Priebus is engaging in willful ignorance or decidedly wishful thinking if he thinks the extreme policies of Governor Rick Scott and national Republicans, including their disrespect for the Hispanic community, won't be a major factor in the election in Florida in 2012,'' she said in an emailed statement. “We have every intention of making sure they are.''