Photos: Craig Romney targets Colorado Latinos as dad Mitt prepares for debates

After last week's Republican National Convention in Tampa, Mitt Romney has taken a break from the campaign trail to focus on debate preparation.

But that doesn't mean he's ignoring the key swing state of Colorado. Yesterday, the campaign brought Craig Romney, the candidate's youngest son, to Lakewood for an event targeting Latino voters.

Craig Romney's visit -- he appeared alongside Congressman Raul Labrador and Hector Barreto, former administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration under George W. Bush -- highlights the importance of Jefferson County, widely regarded as one of the most critical swing counties in the state. The event, which is part of the campaign's "Juntos con Romney" initiative, also underscores the significance of the Latino vote, which in 2008 helped Colorado go blue for Barack Obama.

In the last presidential election, Latino voters played a key role for Obama in several battleground states, and both campaigns have devoted a lot of attention to this demographic in Colorado.

Craig Romney, who has courted the Latino vote across the country for his father, made a speech at the RNC, part of which was in Spanish.

But at the Lakewood Cultural Center, Romney decided to stick to English.

"It's a great privilege to be with you all," he said before offering a short greeting in Spanish. "I'll continue in English, because I know there's a mixed crowd in here today."

Romney was addressing an audience of around seventy or so attendees -- a blend of Latino residents and others who came out for the gathering even though it focused on Hispanic voters and small businesses.

"I'm kind of an ambassador, I guess, for the campaign. I'd love to hear the struggles that you're having. I'd love to hear how you think we can make things better," he said. "I'm not a policy expert...but I can tell you what an incredible man my dad is. I'm incredibly proud of him. I'd like to share just kind of personal stories about what kind of person he is, so you guys can get to know him a little better."

All five of the candidate's sons have been functioning as spokesmen for their father, often focusing on humanizing him.

And that's exactly what Craig, the youngest of the brothers at age 31, spent much of his speech doing yesterday.

"On vacation, what we like to do, my brothers and I have a little family Olympics," he said. "And we involve my dad. So we do silly stuff.... We do a little mile run, have a bike race, a sprint...stuff like that. My dad doesn't do well in all those events. The ones where he actually does do pretty well, we call them the lumberjack events, where we find a big hunk of wood and a saw and you time how long it takes to saw through the piece of wood and to nail ten nails into a piece of wood without bending any of it. So that's his specialty -- the lumberjack events."

Romney went on to criticize Obama's "If you've got a business, you didn't build that" quote, which has been at the center of the Republican campaign's attacks on the president's small-business record and was a theme at the RNC.

"It's unbelievable, because that's what he really thinks," Romney said of the Obama quote, which Democrats have repeatedly argued was taken out of context. "My dad...understands the hard work, the risk, the sacrifice it takes to build a business. And he loves small business owners."

Continue reading for comments from supporters at the event and more photos. Speakers at the event also focused on the talking points of unemployment and the deficit, often repeating the refrain that the campaign is strongly emphasizing now as the Democratic National Convention is underway in Charlotte: Americans, and especially Latino residents in Colorado, are not better off than they were four years ago.

Giuliana Day, a supporter in attendance from Aurora, told Westword that she is going to vote for Romney because of his support of small businesses -- and she's sick of the "war on women" claims from Democrats.

"It's very sad to hear this administration is focusing on abortion and paying...for birth control pills," said Day, 42, who was born in Peru and is looking to start an import-export business. "It's insulting. It's really insulting."

She added of the Obama administration, "They've been overwhelming businesses with taxes and regulations. It's almost impossible."

Is she confident Latino voters are going to come out for Romney?

"The message resonates very well.... I've been talking to friends and relatives and they want to find jobs," she said. "I'm very confident. Latinos tend to be very pragmatic."

In a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal/Telemundo survey, nearly 65 percent of Latino voters polled said they plan to vote for Obama in November, compared to about 30 percent for Romney.

State GOP Chairman Ryan Call, who recently expressed to us his confidence that women voters in the state will support Romney, told us yesterday that, for similar reasons, he thinks Latino voters will end up backing the Republican candidate

"It is important and I'm encouraged," said Call, who has said Romney is gaining support from Colorado Hispanics -- a claim some have questioned. "The issues that are important to the Hispanic community are the same issues that are important to all Americans and all Coloradans.... It's a great community. These are hardworking, faithful people who care about wanting to make a better life for their children, that want to help build and grow their business. They want to work hard."

Is Call concerned that Romney is off of the campaign trail to prepare for the debates and is relying on VP candidate Paul Ryan and other surrogates?

"His campaign operation, as you can see, is full steam ahead," he said. "He's got terrific, great representatives and surrogates that are out there making that case.... There's going to be a sustained effort."

Call, who went to Tampa last week, added, "The convention has given a wealth of material for people to be able to go to online. I was watching it last night on YouTube and on Hulu. It's great for folks to be able to go back and actually listen to [Mitt Romney's] own words and listen to these great testimonials by people who worked with him."

Continue for more photos from the campaign event.

More from our Politics archive: "Videos: Maria Ciano, Colorado ex-Republican, sparks non-controversy controversy at DNC"

Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin. E-mail the author at [email protected].

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