A weird behind the scenes from Romney’s appearance on Univision’s presidential campaign forums:
But the 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. One Democrat with ties to the Obama campaign noted that Rudy Fernandez, the university official charged with coordinating the forums, is a member of Romney’s Hispanic steering committee. Fernandez did not respond to BuzzFeed’s questions about whether he gave preferential treatment to Romney’s campaign.
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.
Obama’s campaign, meanwhile, stuck to the original parameters and allowed a large chunk of the tickets to be distributed to interested students on campus. The result was a quiet, well-behaved crowd — and a lot of no-shows. Minutes before Obama’s forum was to begin, producers began frantically directing university staff and volunteers to sit in the empty seats.
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.”
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.”)
Not very presidential.