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THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Hispanic Outreach Seen Key To Presidency
By Stephen Dinan
February 10, 2003
Democrats hoping to win the White House in 2004 will have to make an unprecedented attempt to win Hispanic votes, according to an analysis of Hispanic advertising and outreach in recent presidential contests.
"If the Democrats will succeed in taking back the White House in 2004, the party and its candidate will employ an unprecedented Hispanic outreach effort that will include historic spending on Spanish-language television and radio advertising," Adam J. Segal said in the "Hispanic Priority," a study produced by Johns Hopkins University's Hispanic Voter Project.
The study looked at outreach to Hispanic voters, particularly in Spanish-language television advertising, over the last few presidential elections.
It concluded that the decision by the campaign of Al Gore to spend little on Spanish-language advertising in Miami was a "fateful one," given that George W. Bush scored such a narrow victory in Florida, the state that clinched his electoral victory after a bitter recount battle.
Overall, the study found that in battlegrounds and major markets, Mr. Gore and the Democratic National Committee spent at least $965,000 on Spanish-language television advertisements.
Meanwhile, Mr. Bush and the Republican National Committee spent more than twice as Mr. Gore more than $2.3 million. By comparison, Bill Clinton in 1996 spent $1.1 million on Spanish-language ads.
Mr. Bush's was the highest spending for Spanish-language ads ever, though it still paled next to overall campaign spending in 2000, which was at least $86 million on behalf of Mr. Bush and at least $77 million on behalf of Mr. Gore.
Census figures show Hispanics, at 13 percent of the population, now topping blacks as America's largest minority. They still lag behind blacks, though, as a percentage of voters.
Black voters are expected to support Democrats overwhelmingly, but Hispanic voters are considered a prime swing group and thus are receiving ever more attention from candidates and parties.
Mr. Segal said Spanish-language spending in 2002 outpaced 2000 spending. He found that Spanish-language networks and stations received more than $16 million from candidates and parties for political advertising.
One potential consequence of the new focus on Hispanic voters is a conflict between resources to be spent on black voters and Hispanic voters. Either way, the report concludes, "it can be expected to raise concern among political organizers in these communities."
In 2000, Republicans scored a big success with ads featuring George P. Bush, Mr. Bush's nephew and the son of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Republicans spent a mere $110,000 to run the ads, but estimate they received several million dollars of "free media" from press reports reairing and covering the ads.
Meanwhile, Democrats had success in New Mexico, where they outspent Republicans $204,000 to $73,000 on Spanish-language television ads and won the state by a few hundred votes.
Mr. Segal called New Mexico a "shining example, and one a lot of Democrats will point to as a sort of 'Southwest Hispanic strategy' to rely upon in the next election."
The Bush-Gore contest also saw the first widespread third-party Spanish-language ads, from the Sierra Club, which spent more than $270,000 attacking Mr. Bush in California, Florida, Illinois, New Mexico and other states.
Hispanic outreach is still new, so few techniques have been ruled out. One that has been deemed a failure is simply translating English ads into Spanish.
"Everything from music and color to the style of images, including the level of sexuality that is shown in advertising on Spanish-language television, sort of mandates a different style of political advertising," Mr. Segal said.