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Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is chairman of the U.S. Democratic Party’s upcoming convention in Charlotte, N.C. (Matt Sayles/Associated Press)
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is chairman of the U.S. Democratic Party’s upcoming convention in Charlotte, N.C. (Matt Sayles/Associated Press)

L.A. mayor gives Democrats a face in the GOP crowd Add to ...

Walking along the cavernous inside of the Tampa convention centre this afternoon, I spotted a familiar face. I stepped closer, searching my mental rolodex. Something was off, I realized. This guy wasn’t a Republican, but a Democrat.

And not just any Democrat, but Antonio Villaraigosa. He’s the mayor of Los Angeles and chairman of the party’s upcoming convention in Charlotte, N.C. So what was he doing in a town swarming with Republicans? Spin, baby, spin.

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Mr. Villaraigosa is in Tampa until tomorrow afternoon. His presence is part of a low-key effort by Democrats to make sure that their message continues to be heard even as the national (and international) media spend the week focused on the opposite party.

He started out with some conciliatory words, noting that leaders of both parties were united in their concern for the safety of those in the path of Tropical Storm Isaac.

Still, his message was clear. “We’re here to share with the American people that this election has consequences, that there is a difference between the candidates,” Mr. Villaraigosa said. “This is about the economy, but it is also about the future.”

He tagged the policy platform adopted last week at the Republican convention as “extreme” and scoffed at any effort by Mitt Romney to distance himself from its various planks.

Mr. Villaraigosa made sure to answer several questions for Spanish-speaking media outlets and emphasized that more Hispanic delegates than ever before will attend the Democrats’ convention next week.

The enthusiasm deficit among Hispanic voters for the Republican party is a matter of great concern for those gathered in Tampa. A recent Quinnipiac poll showed that in Florida, a critical swing state, President Barack Obama leads Mr. Romney among Hispanic voters by 61 per cent to 31 per cent.

Next week, in North Carolina, “You’ll see a much more accessible convention, a much more diverse convention,” Mr. Villaraigosa claimed.

Follow on Twitter: @jslaternyc

 

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