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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Campaign Ads Target Latinos As A Key Issue Looms

Audio for this story from Weekend Edition Sunday
Barack Obama got overwhelming support from Latino voters in 2008, helping him win the White House. Mitt Romney hopes to hold down that margin this year. So both campaigns are targeting Latino voters in TV ads.

President Obama and presumptive republican nominee are both scheduled to address Latino leaders later this week in Florida. And after the president's announcement Friday, putting a stop to some deportations, immigration reform will likely be front and center.

Of the two candidates, it's the Obama re-election team that has the most elaborate campaign aimed at reaching Latino voters. The most recent spots feature Obama volunteers speaking with Latino families, and talking about their own life experiences and concerns about health care, and education.

Take Daniella Urbina who is a field organizer for Obama in Denver. In a Spanish-language ad, she says: "I'm the first one to go to college in my family. I think President Obama understands us — he understands what it's like not to have what everyone else has."

The Obama campaign has reportedly spent nearly $2 million on the ads, which are airing in Florida, Nevada and Colorado. Obama won all three of those states in 2008, and all are expected to be closely contested this year.

The Obama Spanish-language spots are all highly positive and warm-feeling. By contrast, the Service Employees International Union and the pro-Obama superPAC Priorities USA announced a $4 million campaign this past week that goes after Mitt Romney, using his own words.

"You can also tell my story. I am also unemployed," Romney jokes in the ads. A woman then says: "He's making fun of us. I was unemployed. Our children are suffering and he jokes about it?"

The SEIU/Priorities USA ads are running in the same states as the Obama ads. Gabriel Sanchez, who teaches political science at the University of New Mexico, says the pro-Obama ads aim to reignite the spark felt in the Latino community for Obama four years ago.

"That's certainly the intention ... to try to galvanize some enthusiasm among Latinos to get out and vote because all the numbers are suggesting enthusiasm is dropping and actually voter registration numbers among Latinos have dropped over time since the last election," Sanchez says.

The Romney campaign has so far been less focused on reaching Latino voters. It bought a small amount of TV time in North Carolina and Ohio. It's running an ad, called, "Dia Uno," or "Day One," projecting what the first day of a Romney presidency would look like.

In Spanish, the ad says: "How would Mitt Romney's presidency go? Day One: President Romney immediately approves the Keystone pipeline, therefore creating thousands of jobs that Obama blocked."

That ad is a straightforward translation of an ad the Romney campaign has run in English, and misses the mark at least culturally, says Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, a visiting scholar at the University of Texas.
"You know the words are being said, but the faces that you're seeing and the actions and even little details like dress, for example. Latinos are a much more warm in terms of when you greet each other you tend to hug each other. You tend to not see that in English-language ads — something small like that," DeFrancesco Soto says.

The Romney campaign believes that its overall focus on the economy appeals to Hispanic voters.
While the economy, health care and education have all been the focus of ads, one issue that neither campaign has addressed so far is immigration. And with good reason, says DeFrancesco Soto.

"They're staying away from it for different reasons — the president, because he wasn't able to fulfill his promise of comprehensive immigration reform and Romney, to distance himself from the harsh lines he took on immigration during the debates," she says.

That may now change. The announcement Friday that the Obama administration will no longer seek to deport young people brought to the U.S. as children could spur a new round of ads aimed at Spanish-speaking voters.

Video and audio at NPR (click here).

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