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'New' Democrats Seek Hispanic Vote With Ads Woo Hispanics In Orlando Area
'New' Democrats Seek Hispanic Vote With Ads
The New Democrat Network will air two Spanish-language TV ads to net the support of recently arrived Hispanic immigrants in the Orlando and Las Vegas areas.
BY FRANK DAVIES
December 3, 2003
WASHINGTON - Signaling an early battle for the Hispanic vote in 2004, a centrist Democratic group today begins airing Spanish-language TV ads in Central Florida that seek to shore up support among new immigrants.
The two 30-second ads, designed by the New Democrat Network, will run for 2 1Ú2 weeks on Orlando and Las Vegas, Nev., stations, and cost ''several hundred thousand dollars,'' said Simon Rosenberg, president of the organization.
One spot promotes community development with the tag line ''the Democrats have always been our best friends,'' while the other ad targets President Bush for ''not keeping his promises'' on funding education.
Central Florida and Nevada were chosen because they are home to recent Hispanic immigrants who have not developed a strong loyalty to either party.
In the 2000 election, non-Cuban Hispanic voters in Florida, including many new residents from Puerto Rico, strongly backed Democrat Al Gore.
Since then, Gov. Jeb Bush and other state Republicans have made a major effort to woo those voters.
''Republicans have been ahead of us in these efforts, and we realize these voters are critical,'' said Rosenberg, explaining why the campaign is starting relatively early.
George W. Bush captured about 35 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2000, and several polls showed that almost 40 percent of Hispanics voted for GOP congressional candidates in 2002.
A poll in June for the New Democratic Network by Sergio Bendixen of Coral Gables showed a drop in Hispanic support for Bush this year. Some Hispanics blamed the administration for backing away from immigration and Latin American issues.
The Democratic group's education ad tries to counter that personal appeal with a school girl asking, ``President Bush, why did you break your promise?''
The group claims Bush abandoned his commitment to full funding of the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act.
Administration officials say they have pushed to increase funds for the poorest schools.
Both parties plan grass-roots efforts to register more Hispanic voters. The Republican National Committee and the Bush campaign also plan extensive Spanish-language advertising, as they did in 2000.
''We will be aggressively campaigning in a bilingual fashion on TV, in print and on the Internet,'' said Nicole Guillemard, director of outreach media for the RNC.
Democrats' Ads Woo Hispanics In Orlando Area
By Mark Silva | Sentinel Political Editor
December 3, 2003
Central Florida is emerging at the center of the battle to win Hispanic votes in the 2004 presidential election, with a Democratic group launching a multimillion-dollar national campaign of Spanish-language television ads in Orlando today.
The premiere of this Washington, D.C.-based political-ad campaign is a measure of how important the region's Hispanics will be to winning the White House next year -- and of how independent-minded this group of voters can be.
"In this great debate that's going on between the two parties in the battle for the hearts and minds of the Hispanic community, Orlando is a critical battleground community," said Simon Rosenberg, president of New Democrat Network, sponsor of the ads. "Orlando has become one of the ground zeros for this fight between the two parties."
Republicans deride the ads -- which attack President Bush and paint Democrats as the party with Hispanic interests at heart -- as an "unfortunate" negative assault on the president. The GOP also is reaching out to voters who backed Democrat Al Gore's presidential campaign in 2000 but Republican Jeb Bush's re-election as governor.
"It seems that the Democrats have recognized what the Republicans have certainly embraced, and that is that the Hispanic community is certainly an important part of the electorate," said Joseph Agostini, press secretary for the Republican Party of Florida. "It's unfortunate that they are taking the negative tack."
The debut of the Democratic ads is a "saturation buy" of Spanish air- and cable-TV time in Orlando and Nevada this week. It is part of a 21/2-week test run for what is promised to be a more aggressive, multimillion-dollar ad campaign. Marytza Sanz, president of the nonpartisan Latino Leadership group in Orlando and a Democratic activist, said the success of the campaign will depend on how well the message is delivered.
"If the message is clear, if it's a message the community will understand, it will be helpful," she said. "Jeb Bush has been very strong in the Hispanic community, and he has been making inroads. But if [the Democrats] take the right approach in the message, it can help."
Eddie Martinez, a Republican councilman in Winter Springs who moved from Puerto Rico as a boy, calls the Democratic ad campaign "par for the course in politics."
"The sad part is that politics are turning sour," Martinez said. "We are all Americans. . . . Where do they get this business that they're better for minorities than anyone else?"
After this rollout, the campaign will target other Hispanic communities.
In Central Florida, the readiness of the region's fast-growing Hispanic community to swing Republican in one race and Democrat in another will make it a prize constituency in the 2004 presidential election.
It's also a community that, increasingly, is registering and turning out to vote. Puerto Ricans make up Central Florida's largest bloc of Hispanics.
In the last presidential election, Democrats carried Orange County for the first time since Franklin Roosevelt's era -- buoyed by a Hispanic vote that sided with Gore over Bush. Yet, in last year's race for governor, the president's Spanish-speaking brother was swept into a second term with the help of Central Florida's Hispanics.
Democratic strategists say affection for Jeb Bush may not necessarily translate into support for President Bush.
Opening with a picture of the White House, one of two New Democrat Network-backed ads declares, in Spanish:
"When he wanted to reach the White House, George Bush promised to be a friend of the Latino community and do what's best for our children. . . . But as president, he has not kept his promises."
The second ad opens with a man reading a Spanish-language newspaper and carries a more generic message, a narrator explaining: "The Democrats have always been our best friends. With them, the progress of our community is secured."
The Washington-based network says it operates independently of the Democratic National Committee but raises and spends money solely on behalf of Democrats.
Its efforts will become part of a profusion of independent expenditures mushrooming with the advent of strict limits on what donors can give. The ads that will run in Orlando are only the start of what is planned, the group says.
"We are making a permanent commitment over the next several years to make sure the Democrats can match Republican campaigns on the other side," Rosenberg said Tuesday.
The Orlando-area ads will rotate more than 200 times during a two-week period, their sponsors say. They will air on Univision, Telemundo and on the cable Telefutura -- including many showings during Mexican-league soccer games.
The Republican Party declines to say how it might retaliate but promises that Bush will not take Hispanic voters for granted.
"They are the largest minority in the country now, and the president has made an outstanding effort to reach out to the community," the GOP's Agostini said Tuesday.