Hispanic voters in Tampa

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Margolis: Columbus Drive in West Tampa is a heavily Hispanic commercial area with Latino restaurants and shops. There's a small building on the corner of Columbus and North Lincoln. It's the local Obama campaign headquarters. A large sign outside reads: "Casa Obama." The first person you met when you go in is Kayla Rodriguez.

Rodriguez: "Basically, I greet because they have me on on the front desk. So basically I'm the person that's like, 'Hi' when they come in..."

Margolis: Rodriguez has lived in the Dominican Republic and the U.S. At night, she attends classes at a local community college. By day, she volunteers for Barack Obama.

Rodriguez: "Here we have a guy who we can relate to. Here we have a guy who went to college through financial aid. Who worked his way up to what he is today. And I think that he's a great example to what the youth needed today."

Margolis: Several of the volunteers here are wearing Obama t-shirts and sweatshirts.

Rodriguez: "Here Obama, he's like a fashion statement. People love him. And it's cool to wear Obama as something to be proud of."

Margolis: Rodriguez can vote for Obama, she's an American citizen. Gladys Bernett is not. She's a citizen of Panama. But she's still volunteering for Obama.

Bernett: "I see this as a movement. I don't see this as a general election that happens every four years. I think that Obama has been able to inspire people from all over the world. His message resonates with everybody here."

Margolis: Well, maybe not everybody.

Republican volunteerRepublican volunteer

Just across the street, members of the Republican Hispanic Club for Tampa Bay are meeting at a Cuban restaurant. Mary Bell Calderon is organizing McCain volunteers to get the message out to undecided Latino voters.

Calderon:"They're confused who they are going to vote for because they think, sometimes they mistake Democrat for democracy. So they think that Obama is going to be democracy only. And they don't understand that Republicans are the same thing."

Margolis: The volunteers I spoke with seemed less motivated by a passion for McCain, than a distrust of Obama. Cuban immigrant Isis Segarra considers Obama dangerous.

Isis SegarraIsis SegarraSegarra: "Senator Obama is a leftist, he's a socialist. How do I know? When I left Cuba, there was a young man called Fidel Castro that was asking for a change in Cuba, and we did have a change, a real change."

Margolis: All the McCain volunteers I spoke with here told me Obama is a socialist. For the record, Obama has not advocated state ownership and control of the means of production and distribution. Nevertheless, Peruvian immigrant Mary Bell Calderon insisted that Obama is, in fact, a socialist.

Calderon: "He's turning everything into socialist. I think he's actually, honest to God, I think he's the Anti-Christ..."

Margolis: "What do you mean, he's the Anti-Christ?"

Calderon: "Well, because you know, in one of the Bibles, it says the man who will sweep everybody to their feet. They'll tell people what they want to hear. And he'll be young. He's going to come from the Middle Eastern side, on that side. So somebody from the east side is going to come down here, and it's going to sweep, it's going to be a small country, a small area. And he kind of fits the program."

Mary Bell CalderonMary Bell Calderon

Margolis: Of course, Barack Obama does not come from the Middle East. He was born in Hawaii. Still, a few people here, like Joyce Thompson, said Obama would strip away freedom of the press.

Thompson: "Like you and I are sitting here, this is free radio. Oh, there's going to be a clampdown probably on the airwaves if he becomes president."
Margolis:"You really think that? He would clampdown on the first amendment, freedom of speech?"
Thompson:"Yes, I really do."

Margolis: When I met with Greg Truax, the chairman of the McCain campaign in the Tampa area, he didn't suggest that Obama was a socialist. He does warn though that Obama wants to raise taxes on small businesses. But the socialism charge is coming from the highest levels of the McCain campaign. Here's Sarah Palin at a recent campaign event.

Palin: "Barack Obama calls it spreading the wealth. Joe Biden calls higher taxes patriotic. (jeers) Joe the Plumber said it sounded to him like socialism. (cheers) And now is not the time to experiment with that."

Margolis: It's not surprising that this message has an impact among some Latino immigrants here. Many fled to Florida from leftist governments. And the Republican party seems to have stirred up fear among many of them that Barack Obama could be the next Fidel Castro or Hugo Ch-vez. But the Democratic party has been pounding away at its message of change and hope. Recent polls show a tight contest among Florida's Hispanic voters.

For the World, I'm Jason Margolis, Tampa, Florida.