Marco Rubio: Romney's Latino Quip Just A Joke

Florida Senator Marco Rubio addresses the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla.

J. Scott Applewhite/File/AP Photo

The uproar over Mitt Romney's if-I-were-a-Latino joke is overblown, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio suggested Wednesday.

Rubio (R), who was considered as Romney's running mate, defended the Republican presidential candidate's quip caught on a secret recording of remarks he made to donors released this week.

"I think he meant it as a joke, I think that's how most reasonable people would take it," Rubio told reporters on a conference call.

Romney had joked to donors in Florida earlier this year that he would have an easier time winning the election if he was Latino, noting that his father was born in Mexico, albeit to American, non-Hispanic parents.

If he has been "born of Mexican parents, I'd have a better shot at winning this," Romney said.

"I mean, I say that jokingly," he added. "But it would be helpful to be Latino."

The remarks caused a stir, with Romney coming under criticism (including from Univision News) for being insensitive since the Latino experience in the U.S. has not been easy. The remarks were made to a group of wealthy donors and happened in the same speech where he lashed out at low-income voters, saying they "believe they are victims" and don't take responsibility for themselves.

The liberal group MoveOn.org said Wednesday it's launching an TV ad featuring a Latina taking umbrage to Romney's comments.

"We're not laughing Gov. Romney. Because regardless of race, a presidential candidate who has such contempt for Latinos would never deserve our support."

Rubio pointed out that Romney made a similar joke to Univision's Jorge Ramos during an interview in January in front of a live audience of Latino voters, students, and VIPs in Miami.

Rubio and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said that despite the stir over the secret video, Romney has a solid shot to win the election.

"I don't believe that Hispanics are more likely than anyone else in America are more likely to buy into [Obama's] redistribution argument," said Rubio. "We have to do a better job making that argument."

"This is going to be a choice election … whether you're Hispanic or Greek like me," added Priebus.

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Kristian Ramos is a public relations strategist living in Washington, D.C. He's worked for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.