Tampa native Frank Sanchez returns home to stump for Obama

Although Hispanics in Florida traditionally support Republicans in greater numbers than is the case on a national basis, Obama did receive 57 percent of that demographic in the Sunshine State in 2008 (President Bush took 56 percent of that vote in 2004).

In his brief comments at the Armenia Street office, Sanchez praised Vice President Joe Biden's debate performance from Thursday night, which has re-energized most Democrats, depressed after President Obama's lackluster debate the previous week in Denver.

"How 'bout that Joe Biden!," he shouted to cheers, before making his pitch for the president, though he admitted he was "preaching to the choir."

Emphasizing the importance in voting and getting other friends to the polls, Sanchez reminded the audience that with just one exception since 1960, whichever presidential candidate has won Tampa and Hillsborough County has gone on to win the general election.

Sanchez is a Tampa native who lost in a runoff election to Pam Iorio for Tampa Mayor in 2003. He was introduced by a fellow Tampa Cuban-American who has worked in the Commerce Department, Elio Muller.

Tampa City Council members Mary Mulhern and Lisa Montelione were on hand as well. Montelione says she's not phased in the least by Romney's recent surge.

"There was bound to be a little bit of a bounce after the debate on one side or the other," she said. "I thought Governor Romney did a good job presenting himself well and ...controlling the conversation. He put forth a different face than I think you see on commercials and on the little snippets you see on news shows."

Having worked to help Obama in 2008, she denied the assertion that the enthusiasm isn't the same this time around. "I think the excitement for Barack Obama is as strong now as it was before," she insisted.

As all eyes turn towards Long Island, New York this coming Tuesday night for the second presidential debate, Frank Sanchez says his boss has to challenge Mitt Romney on his changing stances. "Whenever Mitt Romney says something inconsistent, we need to call him on it. And my gosh, he's been turning on just about every issue. It could be abortion, tax cuts, health care. You name an issue and Mitt's been on every side of that issue."

Obama officials say "Casa Obama" will be a community space for volunteers to contact potential voters, both via the telephone as well as providing lists to canvass in the surrounding West Tampa neighborhood. Their chief goal now is to encourage the base to vote right now, which they can do by driving to one of four different Supervisor of Elections offices in the county to fill out an absentee ballot.

On personal note, the 53-year-old Sanchez announced that he will soon be a married man, introducing his fiance Jackie Roberts to the crowd. He says they met through a mutual friend in Washington earlier this year.

  • Frank Sanchez at the opening of the "Casa Obama" headquarters in West Tampa

Although a recent series of new polls taken nationally and in Florida shows that momentum is clearly on Mitt Romney's side 24 days before election day, Frank Sanchez isn't buying it.

"Polls are going to go up and down," the Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade told CL. "We all know as the election grows near, polls are going to tighten. What matters now is what you see happening right here - it is the ground game, it is the volunteers, and we have an amazing volunteer team down here in Florida."

There were approximately 40 people who gathered to greet Sanchez at the unveiling of "Casa Obama", the new headquarters for the Obama for America campaign's Hispanic outreach efforts, early Saturday afternoon in West Tampa.

Sanchez was an early backer and fundraiser for Barack Obama during his initial run for the presidency, leading to the president nominating him for his position in the Commerce Department (Sanchez also worked in the Clinton administration in the Transportation Department). He emphasized that he was allowed to appear at a campaign event, as long as it was on his own time.

His appearance comes a day after a surprising new poll by the Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald/BayNews 9 survey showed that among Hispanic voters in the Sunshine State, Mitt Romney now leads Obama, 46 to 44 percent.

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