Mitt Romney is on the defensive and has turned to U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl), a prominent Republican Latino considered a favorite and rising star, for help in fighting off a wave of criticism after the release of a secretly taped video.

“I think he meant it as a joke,” Rubio said, in a phone conference Wednesday organized by Republicans, of the video showing Romney joking that he would have a better shot at winning the presidency if he was Latino. "That's how most reasonable people would take it.”

In the leaked video, from a fundraising dinner at a private donor's home, Romney joked that "had [my father] been born of Mexican parents, I'd have a better shot of winning this."  

"But he was unfortunately born to Americans living in Mexico," Romney quipped. "He lived there for a number of years. I mean, I say that jokingly, but it would be helpful to be Latino."

Rubio also blasted Obama on his redistribution comments in a video circulated by Romney campaign and insisted that Latinos are not going to buy into his "redistribution message."

"The enormous number of people come to this country to get away from big government economics," Rubio said.

Besides the press conference this week, Rubio was deployed by the campaign in a new television ad released Wednesday in the Latino voter heavy battleground state of Florida.

Rubio is featured promoting Romney's plans to overhaul Medicare called, "Least We Can Do."

In the ad Rubio talks about Romney and Paul Ryan’s plan to strengthen and save Medicare. He uses his own mother as an example of how Obama will allow medicare to go bankrupt.

"We can save Medicare without changing hers," Rubio said.

In 2008, Obama carried Hispanics by 67 percent to Sen. John McCain's 31 percent, according to exit polls. According to a national Fox News Latino poll released this week, Obama leads Romney 60 percent to 30 percent. Recent polls suggest that Obama enjoys a similar lead against Romney. 

Both were crisscrossing Florida on Thursday.

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