Washington (CNN)Already creating distance from the last nominee of his party, Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz took aim at Mitt Romney's infamous "47%" remark that created a firestorm of controversy during the 2012 campaign.
Ted Cruz on Mitt Romney: 'Where he got clobbered was 47%'
Speaking about the Latino vote and the economy to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Texas senator bluntly critiqued on Wednesday Romney's personal assessment that as a candidate he didn't need to worry about that part of the vote because they were government-dependent and would reelect the president in 2012.
"Where he got clobbered was 47%," he said. "I think Romney is a good man who had a hard campaign, but I cannot think of a statement in all of politics that I disagree with more strongly."
Cruz, who entered the 2016 campaign last month and often criticizes his party's former nominees, suggested the exact opposite as his party looks to regain the White House.
"I think Republicans are and should be the party of the 47%," he said.
Cruz spoke about Hispanics, whom he says are a "fundamentally conservative community," and the impact of the former Massachusetts governor's comment on them.
"...What the polling data showed is actually Hispanic voters agree with Mitt Romney on a great many issues," he noted. "Where he got clobbered was 'cares about somebody like me'."
Cruz's father immigrated from Cuba after he was imprisoned and tortured there in the 1950s, and became a small business owner in America. Watching him work to earn his success strongly influenced the senator's political viewpoints and methods of campaigning as an adult.
He cited his markedly stronger performance with Hispanics in Texas than Romney's nationwide turnout during his concurrent 2012 Senate run.
Latinos represented about 10 percent of the national electorate during the last presidential campaign. As that number continues to grow, knowing how to convert them -- which Cruz insists he does -- from voting Democrat (71% voted for President Barack Obama's reelection) will be critical to any GOP victory.
"Texas is the only majority minority state in country that is solidly Republican," the Lone Star Senator noted. "And it's not rocket science that if Republicans get clobbered in the Hispanic community, Texas won't stay solidly Republican."
The key is "you go and connect with shared values, asking for their support."
Those shared values provide a great opportunity for his party and insight to his own campaign.
"The Obama economy has been a disaster for the Hispanic community," he said. "The people who are hurting the most under the Obama economy are the most vulnerable."
A message we'll no doubt repeatedly hear on the campaign trail, not unlike Mitt Romney in 2012.