Antonio Villaraigosa takes on Tampa

He’s been hanging around the GOP convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum more than Mitt Romney. Yahoo News asked him whether he wants to be president.

He isn’t a Republican. He’s a Democrat. In fact, he’s the Democrat who’ll be presiding over next week’s convention.

He’s Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and, in the days before he wields the gavel in Charlotte, N.C., on Monday, he’s been in Tampa, Fla., making himself available to interviewers to “bracket” and to “compare and contrast” the Republicans’ message in general, and in particular their push to persuade Latino voters into their ranks, with high-profile speakers like U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

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Villaraigosa told reporters that the GOP is using Latinos as window dressing; they “can’t just trot out a brown face or a Spanish surname” and wait for the votes to pile up.

Of GOP nominee Gov. Mitt Romney’s immigration plan – including “self-deportation” -- Villaraigosa demanded, “What country in the world has ever deported 11 million people?”


“Those 11 million people have 5 million citizen children, they also have 1.5 million or so dreamers.... They are losing the demographic, not because of anything except for their policies.”

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Villaraigosa will be stumping for President Obama in battleground states with significant Latino populations, like Colorado and New Mexico, and predicted that the president would get nearly 70% of the Latino vote.

Villaraigosa -- who is doing his thing for the DNC and the Obama campaign on the Democrats’ tab, not the city’s, according to a mayoral spokesperson – talks like a born-again pension reformer, with the pressure of 10 months left on his term as mayor and enough city problems for 10 years.

His name is often batted around for a Cabinet position, including right after President Obama was elected, and it’s something I asked him about in my current “Patt Morrison Asks” column.

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He’s making his time as mayor count, he says, and then he’s much taken by the idea of spending time in a think tank or strategizing groups like California’s Think Long Committee. “I don’t see myself serving in any elected or appointed capacity right now, I just don’t.”

The mayor’s been described as being “near” the convention center or “around’’ it, but not quite inside. If he’s gotten into the Big Red Chamber itself, I’d sure like to know who gave him the credentials to do so.

Could it be that the Republicans, in their quest for a big-tent identification (without the big-tent positions to back it up), could find room even for Antonio Villaraigosa?


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Follow Patt Morrison on Twitter @pattmlatimes