Florida Voters Look For Less Sniping, More Substance From GOP Candidates

Download Audio
Republican presidential candidates, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney participate in the Republican presidential candidates debate in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP)
Republican presidential candidates, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney participate in the Republican presidential candidates debate in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP)

More than a million Hispanic voters are the prize as Republican presidential rivals Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich resume campaigning after a feisty, final debate before Florida's GOP primary.

Romney was the aggressor in the second debate in four days Thursday night, pressing Gingrich to apologize for an ad labeling him as anti-immigrant and calling the idea "repulsive."

Both men arranged for appearances Friday in Miami with the Hispanic Leadership Network on the day after the debate. The state has roughly 1.5 million Hispanic voters, who figure to play prominently in next Tuesday's Florida primary.

Immigration Is Key Issue

67-year-old Larry Schultz served for 34 years as a Rockledge, Florida city council member and mayor. He says he wants the candidates to stop trading barbs, and start focusing on the issues.

As a longtime GOP politician, Schultz says that immigration is one of the most important issues for Florida voters.

"We have a huge Hispanic and Caribbean population in our state. And there needs to be something done on immigration and people being here illegally," Schultz said.

He said he favors a plan that would allow immigrants who have lived in the States for several years to live here legally.

Space Coast

Schultz is also a NASA project manager and says Florida's so-called Space Coast has been hit hard by the end of the Space Shuttle program.

Newt Gingrich recently suggested an 8-year mission to build a human colony on the moon. Mitt Romney derided Gingrich and suggested he was pandering to voters in Thursday night's debate.

But Schultz said he liked what he heard from Gingrich, and said Florida, which is suffering from nearly 10 percent unemployment, could use a boost.

Stick To The Issues

About 30 percent of Floridians, who voted in the 2008 general election were over 65-years-old. But Schultz said the candidates aren't talking about issues important to seniors.

He said there needs to be more discussion of  Social Security and what it would take to make sure it will be there for Americans in the future.

"I've told my sons that they need to be planning their financial future without Social Security being the mainstay of their retirement lifestyle," Schultz said.

While Floridians have been hit with a constant barrage of mailings, robo-calls and negative campaign ads, Schultz says the candidates would do better by sticking to the issues.

Chief among them: jobs and the economy.

"How do we turn the economy around. How do we generate good viable jobs, without federal dollars," Schultz said.

Reporting from the Associated Press contributed to this article.


  • Larry Schultz, NASA program manager and former Rockledge, Florida city council member and mayor

This segment aired on January 27, 2012.


More from Here & Now

Listen Live