By Ana Arellano
It wasn’t a debate, nor was there any real news to come from it. Last night’s Univision forum seemed to be just an opportunity for the two presidential candidates to do whatever they had to do, in order to demonstrate their willingness to win over the crucial Latino vote in November. The forum called the “Gran Encuentro,” translates in Spanish to “Great Meeting.”
GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney was up first Wednesday night; President Obama appears tonight. The forums are what many consider a compromise after Univision publicly criticized the Commission on Presidential Debates for not having Latino moderators and the network was denied hosting one of the debates.
But in the absence of a debate format, well-rehearsed campaign trail answers were given and at times the program seemed more like an awkward infomercial as the anchors asked questions in Spanish, while Romney responded in English, and an unusually fast paced translator spoke over him. (See video below.) It was distracting for the most bi-lingual of Latinos, and a format that may not be effective in getting their message across to the increasing number of English-dominant Latinos in the country.
Co-sponsored by Univision and Facebook, the forum aired at 10 p.m. after the network’s lucrative primetime telenovela line-up. The setting was a 750-seat auditorium at the University of Miami, located in one of the presidential campaign’s battleground states. Both sides insisted on controlling the distribution of tickets in order to guarantee supporters made up the majority of the audience.
Even though a well known fact by now, Romney began by telling the audience his father was born in Mexico, adding his new phrase – that his campaign is about 100 percent of America. The expected questions on education, unemployment, health care and student loans were asked and the statistics on how the nation’s Latino’s suffer a 10.2 percent unemployment, 30 percent have no health insurance and every 26 seconds a Latino student drops out of school were offered.
It was on the topic of immigration that both Univision anchors, Jorge Ramos and Maria Elena Salinas, followed up on Romney’s answers. The partisan crowd booed when Ramos asked Romney about comments he made last February on his support of self-deportation. Romney did not answer directly, stating, “I’m not in favor of a mass-deportation effort, rounding up 12 million people and taking them out of the country. I believe people make their own choices as to whether they want to go home and that’s what I mean by ‘self-deportation.’”
At one point, Salinas pressed, ”Are you going to deport them or not? Yes or no?” Romney’s response was, “We’re not going to round up people around the country and deport them, that’s not — I said during my primary campaign, time and again, we’re not going to round up 12 million people … and have them deported. Our system isn’t to deport people.”
Salinas repeated, “That’s your answer – that you’re going to allow them to stay?”
Romney did not expand on his answer, instead repeating, ”I’m not going to be rounding people up and deporting them out of the country. We’re going to put in place a permanent solution.”
On health care, Romney stated he would repeal the so-called Obama Care and replace it with what he said is a reform that works.
Later, on the topic of gay marriage, Romney was asked to think personally about his views on same-sex marriage and how he would respond if his child or grandchild wanted to enter a same-sex marriage. Romney responded his sons were all married, but that he would “of course want them to be happy” if a grandchild came out as gay. Nonetheless, he said he still opposes same sex marriage.
Here is a 10-minute video clip (with commercial) from the Gran Encuentro where Romney discusses his 5-point plan for job creation. You can also watch the entire forum in English.
Photo from Univision.com video broadcast