MIAMI (CBSMiami/NSF) – For the first time since announcing that Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan will be his running mate, Gov. Mitt Romney made a campaign swing through Florida.
Romney’s campaign chose Cuban restaurant El Palacio de Los Jugos (the Juice Palace in English) as one of the campaign stops.
“This team, this family, is going to help me win The White House this November,” said Romney.
The visit was controversial even before Romney’s arrival because it was revealed that the restaurant’s owner, Reinaldo Bermudez, was once convicted of one count of conspiracy to traffic cocaine.
CBS4 News spoke with Bermudez about the conviction and whether the campaign knows about it.
“I don’t know if they know or not, but I’m sure they checked my entire record. I own the property, I own the business, I’ve been in business for over 20-something years, I was convicted in 1996, and this country gave me chance and gave me a second chance again, and now I took this business to a humongous level,” Bermudez told CBS4’s Gio Benitez.
It is not known whether Romney or the campaign knew about Bermudez’s past.
Meanwhile, Romney’s bus tour began Monday morning in St. Augustine where Romney was introduced to cheering supporters by Gov. Rick Scott who said his job would be easier if Romney were in the White House.
“We cannot afford another four years of Barack Obama, his policies have failed us,” Scott said in introducing Romney. “Our economy nationally is struggling. Here in Florida, even though we have a president that is making it much, much more difficult to do well, in Florida our economy is getting better. Our unemployment has dropped faster than any state but one in the past 18 months, 127,000 private sector jobs. Just think if we had a president and a vice president that knew that you build business, government doesn’t build businesses. Think what this state could do then, if we had the right president.”
Romney was originally scheduled to go to Orlando next, but that was scratched. He wrapped the day in Miami with an appearance at the Palacio de los Jugos at 7085 Coral Way; Senator Marco Rubio joined him.
“I really excited, (it’s) a real opportunity to let the entire country know what Miami is, what the Cuban community is,” said Jorge de la Llama at the Palacio de los Jugos.
After the public rally, Romney attended a private fundraiser.
Sunday evening, Romney and Ryan appeared together on CBS’ 60 Minutes.
Ryan said he did not take the decision to accept Romney’s proposition lightly. He said he spoke at length about it with his wife before accepting.
“I’ve felt for a while now that our country is in a very perilous position and I’ve done everything I could in my career as Chairman of the Budget Committee to try and make a difference, to tackle this economic and fiscal challenge before it tackles us,” said Ryan.
Romney said it was a difficult choice to make. He said after three months of looking at several strong candidates he decided on Ryan close to the beginning of this month.
“You can’t imagine having someone like Paul Ryan who’s been able to work with Democrat senators, Democrat members of the House as well as Republicans, been able to make things happen there,” said Romney. “I can’t imagine not using him to have his skill in finding those people that can come together and find common ground.”
The Democratic National Committee is fighting back with what they call “Romney Economics; The Middle Class Under The Bus Tour.”
“We know the truth is both Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have proposed massive tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires while throwing middle class Americans under the bus,” said DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
President Barack Obama spent called the Wisconsin Congressman the ideological leader of Congress.
“He’s an articulate spokesman for Governor Romney’s vision,” said President Obama. “But it is a vision I fundamentally disagree with.”
Romney and Ryan said they will split up on the campaign trail and rejoin each other leading up to the Republican convention at the end of the month.
The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.