MIAMI—In his first public campaign event in five days, Mitt Romney made a spirited appeal to Hispanic voters, arguing President Barack Obama cares about the American people but doesn't know how to fix the country's problems.
'The president cares about the people of America. I care about the people of America," Romney declared. "But he doesn't know what it takes to help the people of America, and I do."
Speaking at a "Juntos con Romney" event aimed at Latino voters, Romney echoed talking points he's been emphasizing all week about the struggling economy's negative effects on Hispanic Americans.
He noted that the unemployment rate is higher than the national average among Hispanics and that nearly one in four Latinos is now living in poverty. He argued that Obama's policies haven't helped Hispanics—in spite of the president's rhetoric suggesting otherwise.
"He's eloquent. He can describe his vision for the future," Romney said. "But we have his record, and his record speaks louder than his words will ever speak."
It was Romney's first face-to-face meeting with average voters since he held a rally in Ohio last Friday—and his first since a secretly recorded video surfaced of Romney suggesting Obama supporters have a "victim" mentality and are dependent on government handouts.
Amid concerns the comments could drive Romney's already-low likability scores among voters even lower, his campaign has been in damage control, putting out his wife, Ann, for interviews suggesting her husband wants to help poor and struggling Americans—a message Romney himself reiterated in a Univision forum Wednesday night.
"My campaign is about the 100 percent of America," Romney told Univision.
At the rally, Romney was joined on stage by his son, Craig, a fluent Spanish speaker who sought to humanize his father for the crowd. He talked about how he had once toilet-papered a neighbor's house and his father had cleaned it up—without yelling at him—and how dedicated his dad had been to his mother and brothers.
Craig Romney said it had been difficult for the family to see his dad "attacked left and right" during the campaign but said his father was withstanding the attacks "because he loves this country."
On stage, Romney repeatedly spoke about his father, former Michigan Gov. George Romney, noting how he had been born in Mexico. He repeatedly emphasized his father's humble roots.
"They lived poor, and my dad used to tell us that one year they lived on nothing but potatoes… Later in life, my dad couldn't look a potato in the eye," Romney said. As the audience laughed, Romney added, "That's kind of a joke."
Romney was noticeably more revved up than usual—feeding off the energy of a crowd that reacted enthusiastically to every one of the candidate's applause lines. He exited the stage not to "Born Free," the Kid Rock anthem that usually begins and ends all of his rallies, but to a Latin salsa band.