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Clark Eyes February 3 States With Strong Hispanic Presence Arizona Offers 1ST Gauge Of Hispanic Voters Both Parties Ardently Woo, Gurus Typecast Hispanics
On Eve Of First Primary, Clark Campaign Turns Part Of Focus To South
By DAVID HAMMER
26 January 2004
LITTLE ROCK (AP) - Knowing there is little reason to target Hispanic voters in New Hampshire -- where there are few Hispanics -- Wesley Clark's campaign turned part of its attention southward Monday, the day before the Granite State's first-in-the-nation primary.
"We knew from the beginning that New Hampshire would be a tough place for us, especially against two native sons (Massachusetts' John Kerry and Vermont's Howard Dean)," said Kety Esquivel, who directs Clark's Hispanic and Latino outreach. "All along we had our eyes on February 3 states with strong Hispanic and Latino presence."
Fewer than 1.5 percent of New Hampshire residents are Hispanic, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates from mid-2002. States with primaries next week have higher concentrations of Hispanics -- Oklahoma at 5 percent, Arizona at 27 percent and New Mexico at 43 percent. (South Carolina, long a Clark target, has a 2.7 percent Hispanic population.)
"If you have a good Hispanic message and nobody knows about it, it's as bad as not having it," said Miguel Lausell, a Democratic National Committee member who endorsed Clark on Monday after serving as national co-chairman of Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt's campaign.
"It's a hard task getting to the Latin states. But if we can get past the immediate things and get people looking at the big picture again, Hispanic votes can have a major effect."
A little more than a week ago, Clark was polling a strong second in New Hampshire and campaign chairman Eli Segal said the campaign's initial expectation of a fourth-place finish wouldn't fly anymore.
But then Kerry won Iowa and vaulted into the lead in New Hampshire, and in some recent polls, North Carolina Sen. John Edwards is tied with or ahead of Clark.
"We have to deal with the reality of what happened in Iowa," Segal said Monday. "This man hasn't run for office since the eighth grade. We feel good about New Hampshire but we have to recognize the polls."
Hoping to get a jump-start on the rest of the field, the Clark campaign was the first to issue a position paper last week on Puerto Rico's right to choose statehood, independence or something in between. Monday, Esquivel announced the formation of a National Hispanic and Latino Leadership Council, comprised of more than 100 prominent supporters.
The group includes Lausell; Ed Romero, former ambassador to Spain; Herman Gallegos, civil rights activist and founder of Hispanic think-tank La Raza; and Jose Villareal, former treasurer of Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign.
In courting endorsements from top Hispanic leaders, Esquivel and advisers like Yosem Companys have emphasized Clark's time as head of U.S. Southern Command in Panama, his ability to speak Spanish and, for the last month, his Hispanic grandson.
"Wes Clark lived in Latin America, learned Spanish and worked with key leaders in Latin America to improve U.S.-Latin American relations," Romero said. "And he is the proud grandfather to Wesley Pablo Oviedo Clark. The future of his family, like the future of our nation, is inextricably linked with the future of our community."
Clark's Colombian-born daughter-in-law, Astrid, is married to screenwriter Wes Clark Jr. and gave birth to their first child Dec. 25.
Lausell said he joined the Clark campaign after Gephardt dropped out because he believes Clark, more than the other Democrats, can compete for Hispanic votes with President Bush, who also has Hispanic relatives.
"We're in a good place with Hispanic voters," said Segal, Clark's campaign chairman.
Arizona Primary Offers First Gauge Of Hispanic Voters
27 January 2004
The surprising results of the Iowa caucuses last week pushes Arizona's first early primary even further into the spotlight, one that focuses on voters who may be the most stereotyped and misunderstood in the nation, pundits say.
Arizonans often are pegged as archconservatives who elect kooks, a pigeonhole that analysts say overlooks their sometimes liberal, environmental leanings.
"Arizona's not only different from Iowa and New Hampshire, Arizona's just different," national pollster John Zogby said. "You don't elect nuts, you elect iconoclasts, people who dance to the beat of their own drum.
"When I think of Arizona, I think of Barry Goldwater, Morris Udall and John McCain, three iconoclasts from the very right, the very left and the very center, but they're all brothers in some way."
Arizona's diversity will make this state's primary on Feb. 3 a crucial test for the Democratic presidential candidates.
It will be the first test in the West, the first with a large number of Hispanic voters and the first with no favorite son or regional candidate.
"It could be a very important place for Wesley Clark to try to recapture the McCain mystique," Zogby said. "Or for Howard Dean, who's certainly an iconoclast."
The state's rapid growing and changing demographics have made Arizona politics less predictable than in the past.
Usually seen as a Republican stronghold, Arizona has a Democratic governor, Janet Napolitano, elected in 2002, and voted for Democrat Bill Clinton for president in 1996.
Before that, you have to go back nearly 50 years to find another Democrat to capture the state's presidential vote, Harry Truman in 1948.
Despite their reputation, Arizona's voters are moderate, sometimes progressive, said Barry Dill, a political and government affairs consultant. He has worked on
Democratic campaigns for 16 years, including the 1996 presidential election and as senior strategist for Napolitano's victory.
"I think the stereotypes are beginning to be questioned inside strategy rooms," Dill said, "because many are beginning to believe the South is lost to the Republicans and the new progressive area for Democrats to begin mining voters is the Southwest and the Rocky Mountain states."
The increasing Hispanic population is part of the changing political landscape. The Hispanic population in Arizona increased more than 88 percent to 1.3 million from the 1990 census to 2000 and grew to more than 25 percent of the state's population.
"Governor Napolitano's victory was very similar to Clinton's in 1996," Dill said. "She took four out of every five Hispanic votes."
But no one yet knows which way Hispanics will fall in the Democratic primary.
"We have no reading at all from the polls, zero, on how Hispanics will vote," Zogby said.
That question will be answered in Arizona.
In the past, Arizona voters often were seen as happy to punch the ballot for conservative, sometimes kooky, candidates.
From impeached Gov. Evan Mecham, who thought laser beams were aimed at his state Capitol office, to Fife Symington, who was convicted of fraud while governor, then pardoned by President Clinton and who now is whipping up desserts at a Phoenix Italian restaurant, the stereotype may be well-earned.
But it's wrong, analysts say.
"People remember Mecham and Symington," said Bob Grossfeld, an Arizona political strategist and pollster. "And at least once a year there's a crackpot, over-the-edge Republican bill at the Legislature. Those things get reported and they contribute toward building a reputation.
"Is it real? No. People coming to town don't see the insanity someone may have warned them about because it doesn't exist. It's a mythology.
"The first thing they say is, 'Wow, it's a normal kind of place.' I say, 'We can show you some crazy people, but we don't go there a lot.' "
Arizona Democrats are shaped by the Western landscape, the vast open space that surrounds them, the mountains and rivers and forests, Grossfeld said.
"The prototype Arizona Democrat is a true moderate to progressive with some Western political attitudes and Western values that are mainstream here but might be construed as politically conservative if you're sitting in Washington or New York," Grossfeld said. "We experience things like wildfires and they don't. There's just a different prism that people look through."
Dill said Arizona Democrats are more mainstream than the people back East believe.
"Tucson is a little more blue collar," he said. "There are some real radical liberal activists down there. And Flagstaff has a large, Democrat-leaning environmental voting block."
In the past, Arizona's primary had little impact.
"(Steve) Forbes managed to limp on a little longer because of Arizona," said Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a political analyst at the University of Southern California-Los Angeles. "But I don't know of any presidential candidacy that pivoted solely or mainly on the results of an Arizona primary."
But with the interest stirred by the earlier primary date, there are many converts, Grossfeld said.
There are now 1.3 million registered Democrats basking in the glow, Dill said.
"They haven't been paid a lot of attention in recent history because Republicans have tended to dominate," Dill said.
"Then we hit what folks call the bookends, South Carolina, the first test in the South and the first significant African-American vote, and Arizona, the first test in the West and the first significant test of the Hispanic vote.
"Between the two of them, it will be a real dramatic night."
Parties Ardently Woo Hispanics
By C.J. Karamargin , ARIZONA DAILY STAR
21 January 2004
Jobs, Iraq, immigration - which issue will draw Arizona Hispanics to the polls on Feb. 3?
All of the above.
With the Democratic presidential primary less than two weeks away, political leaders, activists and academics say no single issue is likely to dominate among Hispanics voters.
Rather, Hispanics will pick a candidate based on an array of issues - like every other voter.
"Latino issues are the same issues everyone has," said Debbie Lopez, director of the Phoenix-based Latino Vote Project, a nonpartisan group aimed at registering voters and increasing participation in the political process.
"It's crime. It's health care. Education is very important," she said. "They are the same for every American."
Still, there's no question that a surging Hispanic population is one of the reasons Arizona this year has scaled new heights of political relevance, and not just among Democrats.
President Bush makes his second trip to Phoenix in less than two months today. Vice President Dick Cheney was in Mesa last week.
"Over the next year," said Adam Segal, director of the Hispanic Voter Project at Johns Hopkins University, "it's likely you won't see the president and vice president traveling to states that aren't critical to their re-election."
Arizona's Hispanic population exploded 88 percent in the 1990s. Today, more than 27 percent of Arizona - and more than 31 percent of Pima County - is Hispanic. Add those numbers to the more than 42 percent Hispanic population in New Mexico, which votes the same day as Arizona, and it's easy to understand why Segal calls Feb. 3 "Hispanic Tuesday."
It is no coincidence that Bush will travel to New Mexico after he leaves Phoenix.
Democrats hoping to run against Bush in November are also reaching out to Hispanic voters. Wesley Clark, Howard Dean and Joe Lieberman have visited numerous times since the campaign kicked into high gear last summer. Lieberman was in Tucson last week. All the major candidates have an "en español" icon on their Web sites. Dennis Kucinich was in Tucson on Friday. On Saturday, he, too, made it to New Mexico.
According to Lopez, about 310,000 Arizona Hispanics are registered to vote. She said her group hopes to register another 88,000 this year, including about 20,000 in the Tucson area. Getting them to vote, she said, will come down to the candidates' ability to connect with a message that resonates.
Immigration was catapulted to the forefront of the campaign two weeks ago when Bush proposed granting temporary legal status to millions of undocumented workers. It is by design, Segal said, that an initiative about an issue of deep concern to Hispanics was unveiled at the outset of an election year.
"It was the top story in the Spanish-language media for a week, followed by coverage of Bush's trip to Monterrey" to meet with Latin American leaders, Segal said.
But while immigration is "extremely important" to Hispanics who will cast ballots next month, Lopez said it would be a mistake to consider it paramount. "You can't have brown skin in this country and not see how huge it is," she said. "But you can't live in Arizona and not care about immigration."
Lopez's views are echoed by Pima County Supervisor Ramon Valadez and Tucson City Councilman Jose Ibarra.
For Ibarra, immigration is on the list of issues he considers important - after jobs, crime and health care. "These things have an impact on the city level," he said. "If a candidate's plan doesn't end up building a strong economic foundation, it has ramifications that fall on us."
Valadez has no doubt that Bush's immigration plan was motivated by a desire to curry favor with Hispanic voters. But, he said, "if a lot of people didn't think immigration was important, the president wouldn't be doing what he's trying to do."
Until Tuesday, Valadez was planning to vote for Dick Gephardt on Feb. 3. With the Missouri congressman now out of the race, Valadez said he is taking a second look at the remaining field of candidates.
Rep. Ed Pastor, Gephardt's most prominent Arizona supporter, is also re-examining the candidates. "He's still looking," said Maura Saavedra, spokeswoman for the Hispanic congressman, D-Phoenix.
Campaign Gurus Typecast Hispanics
December 21, 2003
While e-mail and the Internet are today's powerful new campaign tools, TV ads still dominate our elections.
With the state's first-ever Democratic Party presidential caucus fast approaching, observations from one of the state's top political strategists reveal just how out of touch TV advertising has become. It's especially apparent in a state like New Mexico, where every campaign pins its hopes on capturing the biggest slice of the all- important, but poorly understood Hispanic vote.
But first a quick story about New Mexico Democrats' late entry into electronic organizing and the two activists -- both Hispanic -- who got it started.
It wasn't until early 2000 that the Democratic Party of New Mexico cobbled together its first statewide e-mail newsletter. The Republican listserve was already up and running when two young Democratic Party workers, Jonathan Spradling and Raul Alvillar, began the tedious work of rolling many short lists of activist e- mail addresses into one long list.
In a matter of weeks, Internet-savvy New Mexico Democrats were getting a weekly dose of calendar items and news with a predictable partisan slant. It was a tiny forerunner to the explosion of blogs and meetups that have made e-organizing a force to be reckoned with this year -- especially for a little known Vermont governor whose campaign has deftly mastered the new technology.
But while the Internet has begun to revolutionize how political campaigns are waged, the strategic thinking behind television advertising -- especially Hispanic-themed advertising -- has hit a terrible rut.
Armando Gutierrez, a nationally known Democratic media consultant who is based in Albuquerque and specializes in crafting messages that appeal to Hispanics, would like to escape that rut.
But it's hard to do.
Gutierrez has been hired by Howard Dean's presidential campaign to develop its "Hispanic media."
Translation: Gutierrez is paid to produce Spanish-language TV and radio ads for Dean that will air in selective markets nationally, including, no doubt, the Albuquerque market.
But anyone who has spent any time in New Mexico knows that a huge and growing slice of the Hispanic demographic here doesn't speak Spanish and doesn't access Spanish-language media the way recent immigrants do.
Eighty-four percent of Hispanics in New Mexico are native born.
"You need someone to do Hispanic media, but that person needs a chunk of the general market budget" -- the budget for English- language media -- "in order to craft messages that reach Hispanics but don't (upset) whites," argues Gutierrez.
"And it's not that difficult to do."
E-pioneers Spradling and Alvillar make the point. Alvillar, currently an operative with John Kerry's presidential campaign, understands Spanish but hardly ever speaks it. Spradling, who died in a car crash two years ago and was the son of a Hispanic mother and an Anglo father, was much the same way.
Yet both represent New Mexico reality -- a reality that's apparently too hard to grasp for nearly every hot-shot media consultant around.
"Most campaigns are run by non-Hispanics," Gutierrez says bluntly but honestly. "We're barely making breakthroughs in this field."
Meanwhile, roughly 60 percent of registered Democrats in New Mexico are Hispanic.
Much of the problem is just plain ignorance.
"There's mounds of empirical evidence that demonstrate that Hispanics don't react to ads in the same way as a non-Hispanic does," he said.
Ideally, top-flight national campaigns would target Hispanic voters with messages in both Spanish and English -- "It's what I should be doing," says Gutierrez.
Instead, Gutierrez will likely produce very effective Spanish- language ads for the Dean campaign, much as he did for Al Gore's campaign four years ago, but nothing in English.
"Keep in mind, media consultants are usually among the first people hired (on a campaign), and once they're hired they have a vested financial interest in every dollar sticking with them," he explains.
The Hispanic media rut contrasts vividly with the rise of highly sophisticated Internet campaigning.
From the periphery, Gutierrez sees that, too.
"It's just taken off, (voters) reading all these chat rooms, blogs, meetups. There's a Latino group, a black group."
All of which makes it almost funny that once-trailblazing television is already behind the curve.