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How Very Presidential, Mr. Romney!

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Mitt Romney at Univision Meet the Candidates Forum

From Buzzfeed:

[T]he enthusiasm gap may have been an optical illusion formed by a series of last-minute demands by the Romney campaign, according to Maria Elena Salinas, one of the Univision anchors who moderated the forums.

Salinas told BuzzFeed that tickets for each forum were divided between the network, the respective campaigns, and the University of Miami (which hosted the events) — and she said both campaigns initially agreed to keep the audience comprised mostly of students, in keeping with the events’ education theme.

But after exhausting the few conservative groups on campus, the Romney camp realized there weren’t enough sympathetic students to fill the stands on their night — so they told the network and university that if they weren’t given an exemption to the students-only rule, they might have to “reschedule.”

The organizers relented.

Salinas said both candidates ultimately had partisan crowds at their forums, but that Romney’s non-student activists ignored instructions to hold their applause.

“We were a little bit thrown because it was supposed to be a TV show, it wasn’t a rally,” Salinas said of the outspoken Romney supporters. “It was a little bit of disrespect for us.”

In any case, Romney’s team was allowed to bus in rowdy activists from around southern Florida in order to fill the extra seats at their town hall.[…]

That wouldn’t be the last demand from the campaign: Romney himself almost pulled the plug on the whole thing minutes before the broadcast, Salinas said.

While introducing Romney at the top of the broadcast, Salinas’s co-anchor, Jorge Ramos, noted that the Republican candidate had agreed to give the network 35 minutes, and that Obama had agreed to a full hour the next night. Ramos then invited the audience to welcome Romney to the stage — but the candidate didn’t materialize.

“It was a very awkward moment, believe me,” Salinas said.

Apparently, Romney took issue with the anchors beginning the broadcast that way, said Salinas, and he refused to go on stage until they re-taped the introduction. (One Republican present at the taping said Romney “threw a tantrum.”)

“Our president of news was talking to the Romney campaign and negotiating it,” Salinas said. “But at that point, you can’t really argue with that. The candidate is there, everyone is in their seats, the show must go on. There’s a limit to how much we can object to it.”

The compromise reached was that the anchors would note the discrepancy in the candidates’ time commitments at the end of the broadcast. But Salinas said, by then, the crowd was cheering so loudly that they drowned out the anchors’ words.

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Written by Valerie Curl

September 23, 2012 at 9:06 AM

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