Held at the University Club of Tampa, a major purpose of the discussion was perhaps best summarized by South Florida GOP political consultant Ana Navarro when she said that Mitt Romney will not be able to win the general election this November if he doesn't start attracting more support from Latino voters.
"If he doesn't beat McCain's numbers (in 2008), he doesn't win," Navarro said.
The Hispanic population is the fastest growing part of the U.S. electorate. At a different panel discussion on Aug. 28, pollster Whit Ayres offered a stunning statistic: There are 50,000 Hispanics who turn 18 every month, and will for the next 20 years.
Based on how unpopular the GOP is with this key demographic, things need to change if the party is going to remain competitive in presidential elections.
But when South Florida Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart and former Florida Sen. Mel Martinez were asked how Mitt Romney could change his abysmal polling numbers — currently around 28 percent, lower than the 31 percent McCain received in 2008 — neither had a satisfying answer.
Both Cuban-American legislators blamed harsh — if not flat out racist — rhetoric from members of their own party as the culprit for the low ratings, referring to House Republicans as the most egregious violators.
"They used rhetoric that was damaging and painful," said Diaz-Balarte to Univision network anchor Jorge Ramos, who joined ABC News' Diane Sawyer and the National Journal's Ron Brownstein as panelists.
Diaz-Balart added that inflammatory language regarding undocumented immigrants turns off U.S. citizens of Latino descent, as well as those who are undocumented.
But Diaz-Balart and former Sen. Martinez were caught flat footed when explaining why Mitt Romney would be better than Barack Obama in dealing with Hispanic related issues — which are mainly the same as the rest of the electorate, with the exception of the immigration issue.
Diaz-Balart said that Romney wants a permanent solution to the immigration problem. Though most Latinos recall his comment at the January 2012 presidential debate at USF, when he said his policy would be for undocumented people to "self-deport," as hardly the answer they're looking for.
Martinez could only say, "primaries are never a good time for enlightened debate," excusing the self-deportation line.
Then he repeated what Diaz-Balart said, which wasn't very substantive.
"Mitt Romney has committed himself," he said.
However Diaz-Balart's scorn at President Obama and other congressional Democrats appeared well founded. He said that figures like Dick Gephardt and Harry Reid talk about immigration issues before they're up for re-election, but then drop the issue after they're elected. He said he attempted to work with Obama, even before the president was inaugurated in January 2009, but, "he's refused to work with any of us."
Diaz-Balart said another thing he loved about Romney was that he didn't pander.
ABC News Anchor Diane Sawyer asked fewer questions than Brownstein or Ramos, but she kept asking her various guests what Mitt Romney could say in his Thursday evening nominating speech that might compel more Latinos to support him.
"I don't think tomorrow night is the place to address immigration," said Navarro, who now serves as an analyst with CNN.
She added that he won't be able to sidestep the topic during the campaign, but that his acceptance speech should be about "going big."
"It's going to take a visionary Republican president that will have to go in this direction," said Ayres — who worked on Marco Rubio's campaign two years ago — referring to the party needing a complete transformation in order to appeal to Latino voters.
"Listen to Marco Rubio," he added, referring to Rubio's upcoming Thursday night speech introducing Mitt Romney.
Thursday night's speeches are the most anticipated moments of the convention. Ayres said that putting Rubio on the center stage shows that the Romney campaign realizes it needs to appeal to the group.