When Alan Reynolds learned Mitt Romney would be holding a rally in Hialeah last week, the local conservative was ecstatic: Not only could he see his favorite GOP contender in person, he could unleash the perfect sign. "My wife is Cuban-American, he's holding a rally at a Hialeah lunch spot, so I thought, 'I'm going to bring a sign about Cuban coffee," Reynolds says. "It was perfect."
So it was -- at least until Romney's staffers saw the poster. Reynolds says he was promptly booted from the event with a staffer telling him: "Romney doesn't drink coffee. It's against his religion."
Reynolds, a 52-year-old who lives in Miramar, says he's now extracted an apology from Romney's campaign over the incident and thinks the whole debacle was more funny than an outrage. But at the time, he was fuming.
"My wife's family suffered under Castro after his takeover and from his repression of speech," he says. "I couldn't help but think about the persecution of people at the hands of their leaders."
Romney's Florida campaign headquarters didn't return a message from Riptide to comment on Reynold's tale.
Reynolds, who owns an insurance brokerage, says he's a registered Republican who had volunteered for Romney at events in Broward. He signed up ahead of time for Romney's rally in Hialeah, which was held at Casa Marin on Jan. 29.
He thought his sign would be well received at an event with a few hundred mostly Hispanic supporters and a heavily Cuban flavor -- including a heap of lechón.
But he may have touched off trouble with his other signage, a piece that read: "No Newt-ist Colony on the Moon, Vote Romney."
"They saw the word, 'Newt," and thought I was a Gingrich supporter," Reynolds says.
To smooth things over, he tried to demonstrate his Romney support by showing off his Cuban coffee masterpiece:
That's when things really got bizarre, with the staffers bringing up Mormonism's ban on drinking caffeine. "I said, 'This sign is clever!,'" he says. "They said it was offensive because he's Mormon."
The incident annoyed Reynolds enough -- even though he blamed Romney's overzealous staff and not Mittens himself -- that when the primary rolled around last Tuesday, he cast his ballot for Rick Santorum instead. Then he started agitating for an apology, calling Romney's headquarters and conservative talk radio shows.
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Reynolds says he eventually got a call from J.C. Hernandez, Romney's Florida field director, to apologize. (Riptide sent Hernandez a message to ask about the call, but we haven't heard back.)
The once-Romney supporter says he still likes the candidate -- he just thinks his campaign could use some better "customer support."
"I respect Mormons. I have no problem with Mormons," Reynolds says. "Really, I just think the whole incident is funny in retrospect."