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Hispanic Democrats Extol Kerry…Bushes Step Up Battle For Hispanic Vote…Hispanic Voters Divided, More Democratic

Hispanic Democrats Extol Kerry

Party leaders spoke to the media in a call aimed at upstaging Monday's GOP event in Orlando.

By Mark Silva | Sentinel Political Editor

April 10, 2004
Copyright © 2004 THE ORLANDO SENTINEL. All rights reserved.

On the issues alone, says Latino leader Henry Cisneros, Democrat John Kerry's campaign for president should have more appeal than President Bush has among Hispanic voters.

Cisneros, former U.S. secretary of Housing and Urban Development, joined Los Angeles city Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa and others Friday in a discussion organized as a pre-emptive strike for the rollout Monday of President Bush's national Hispanic campaign steering committee in Orlando.

The president's brother, Gov. Jeb Bush, will host the re-election rally at noon Monday at the Latin Quarter restaurant at Universal Orlando's CityWalk.

"They frankly can kick off any effort they want, but they are a long way off on the issues," Cisneros said in a Kerry campaign conference call with reporters.

He cited job losses, an absence of health care, and school reforms reliant on testing as the record Bush will have trouble defending among Latinos.

"They are focusing their efforts here because they know they have a fight on their hands," said state Rep. Bob Henriquez, a Tampa Democrat, on the call.

Kerry is committed to raising the minimum wage, added Villaraigosa -- noting that one in five minimum-wage workers is Hispanic.

"The American dream can't just be for some of us," Villaraigosa said. "It has to be for all of us."

Brotherly love

Jeb Bush says George W. Bush's bid for Hispanic votes has a lot going for it.

"The campaign will work hard to earn the Hispanic vote in Florida based on a fine record," Bush told the Orlando Sentinel.

"Homeownership is at record highs," he explained. "A strong national defense is clearly an advantage. Tax cuts have helped small businesses and individuals. The president has stood for strong moral values, and his advocacy of high standards for all students in education resonates in the Hispanic community."

Power steering

The steering committee of Hispanic leaders that the president's campaign will announce Monday is 64 names long, including business and political leaders.

It includes Miami attorney Al Cardenas, former state GOP chairman; state Rep. John Quinones, R-Kissimmee; brothers and U.S. Reps. Mario and Lincoln Diaz-Balart of Miami; and businessmen Sergio Pino and Manuel Medina of Miami.

The Democratic National Committee says its Hispanic outreach has been under way for months, starting with early party primaries scheduled in Arizona and New Mexico. The DNC notes that 80 percent of elected Hispanics are Democrats.

Bushes Step Up Battle For Hispanic Vote

In Florida and nationally, Latinos may prove key in the November presidential election.

By Mark Silva | Sentinel Political Editor

April 9, 2004
Copyright © 2004 THE ORLANDO SENTINEL. All rights reserved.

Seeking inroads among Democratic Hispanic voters nationwide, President Bush's re-election campaign will launch its bid for the Latino vote next week on friendly Florida turf.

The president's brother, Gov. Jeb Bush, will lead a noon rally Monday in Orlando, a musical and political festival at Universal Studio's Latin Quarter Restaurant where the president's national Hispanic steering committee will be named.

Both the president and the governor speak Spanish. But it will take more than salsa and a politically perfect Spanish accent to court an increasingly diverse and independent-voting Hispanic community -- not only in Florida but nationally.

"The Hispanic community right now is a sleeping bear," said Evelyn Rivera, who moved to Orlando from Puerto Rico 18 years ago. "They better have some real solutions to our problems. We need more than a song and a dance."

The president's support among Hispanic voters in Florida, who could account for 12 percent of the state's vote in November, is virtually a mirror image of his standing among Hispanics nationally:

*Bush is favored among 58 percent of Hispanic voters in Florida, with Democratic rival John Kerry drawing 36 percent, according to a recent statewide survey by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research.

*Kerry is favored among 58 percent of Hispanics nationwide, with Bush at 33 percent, according to a Zogby International national survey.

For president and rival, converting just 10 percent of this vote in Florida or nationally could be key to victory.

"We feel that whatever level our numbers are with Hispanic voters are basically the floor," says Reed Dickens, a Bush campaign spokesman, noting that Bush claimed 35 percent of the Hispanic vote nationally in 2000. "We feel that that is just the starting point."

The president has built a Florida base with Republican-leaning Cuban-Americans in South Florida, but they account for less than one-third of Florida's fast-growing Hispanic population of nearly 3 million.

Central Florida's Puerto Ricans, Mexican-Americans and immigrants from other Caribbean or Latin American nations backed Democrat Al Gore in the 2000 presidential election.

Yet the governor, whose wife, Columba, is Mexican-born and who campaigns with conversant Spanish, successfully courted Hispanics for his overwhelming re-election in 2002.

This swing vote could make all the difference in 2004.

"Here in Central Florida, the emerging Hispanic community is growing and growing, and it's word of mouth," said Nancy Acevedo, a Puerto Rican who has lived in Orlando 18 years and chairs the Central Florida chapter of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly.

"In many forums and gatherings, we talk about politics now," said Acevedo, citing a commonality of interests with the GOP. "We have very tight family values. We believe in the education of our children. . . ."

Democratic activists suggest the president has let Hispanics down.

"The impact of the war has left a lot of people in the Hispanic community very shaky," said Rivera, who is organizing a Puerto Rican Democratic caucus in the state party. "I think there is a credibility gap right now with all the things going on."

And speaking Spanish, she said, wins no assurance of support.

"Everybody thinks we are about partying and speaking to us in Spanish -- mi casa es tu casa [my house is your house] and all that," she said. "But we are more than that."

Bush and the Democrats are battling on Spanish-language TV. The New Democrat Network says it is matching the president's Spanish-TV campaign in four swing states -- Florida, Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico -- dollar for dollar. The group has spent $266,447 on TV ads in targeted markets since March 5; Bush has spent $283,124 on Spanish TV.

While Bush has outpaced his opposition on Spanish TV in Miami, the New Democrat Network claims 117 spots to Bush's 20 in Orlando and 92 to Bush's 21 in Tampa since early March.

Its ads on Univision and Telemundo affiliates picture past Democratic presidents: Franklin D. Roosevelt, "hero of World War II"; John F. Kennedy, who "returned hope to a nation"; Jimmy Carter, who "fought for human rights in Latin America"; and Bill Clinton, who "engineered the largest economic prosperity in half a century."

"The bottom line is that, in Florida and elsewhere, we are going to be competitive in a way that Democrats have not been in the past on Spanish-language television," said Maria Cardona, NDN spokeswoman.

Hispanic Voters Divided, More Democratic

By Thom J. Rose, UPI Correspondent

December 31, 2003
Copyright © 2004 UPI. All rights reserved.

WASHINGTON, Dec. 30 (UPI) -- Hispanics in the United States remain more Democratic than Republican, despite George Bush's efforts to woo the country's largest ethnic group.

At the same time, most Hispanics do not have strong ties to any political party, making them a bastion of potential swing voters, according to results from a recent survey by New York management consultants Westhill Partners and the Hispanic publication Poder magazine. Of those responding to the survey, 52 percent said they are independent or have no party affiliation.

Twenty-six percent said they were Democrats, 9 percent said they were Republicans and 3 percent said they were affiliated with some other party.

Hispanics "are politically independent, open to appeals from both major parties," Alexander Jutkowitz, president of Westhill Partners, wrote in Poder magazine.

The survey group preferred all Democratic contenders to Bush, but only 42 percent of respondents said they thought the country is headed in the wrong direction. Thirty-six percent said the country is on the right track.

Hispanic respondents said overwhelmingly that the economy is the most important issue facing the United States. Of those surveyed, 40 percent said the economy in general is their greatest concern, 8 percent cited unemployment as their primary issue and 4 percent said they are most concerned about high costs of living or inflation.

Despite their economic focus, U.S. Hispanics generally avoid investments, a potentially financially crippling stance, according to Jutkowitz.

Hispanic views of the current economy were mixed. Only 10 percent of respondents were very optimistic about the economy, but only 10 percent were very pessimistic. Forty-eight percent said they were somewhat optimistic and 32 percent replied that they were somewhat pessimistic.

Universal healthcare is the initiative with the widest support among Hispanics. More than 80 percent of those surveyed said they support some form of universal public healthcare at least somewhat. Sixty percent said they strongly support universal healthcare.

The Free Trade Area of the Americas, designed to unite the Western Hemisphere into one trading bloc, was the next most popular program among Hispanics, with 60 percent saying they support approving it.

Heightened immigration standards, which 58 percent of respondents supported at least somewhat, were the third most supported program.

Other popular ideas included increasing U.N. involvement in Iraq (53 percent support) and the Bush tax cuts (52 percent support).

Gay marriage was overwhelmingly unpopular. Only 18 percent of the survey's respondents supported it. Civil unions for gays attracted support from 38 percent of respondents.

Sending more troops to Iraq was supported by 25 percent of those surveyed.

Hispanics support some form of affirmative action. Of those responding, 35 percent said they were in favor of continuing affirmative action on a limited basis and 17 percent said they strongly support affirmative action and believe courts should uphold it.

Abortion, on the other hand, was unpopular, with 39 percent of respondents saying it should be illegal with some exceptions and 17 percent saying it should be illegal in all cases.

The No. 1 media source for Hispanics is television, with 57 percent preferring Spanish-language programming to English. Television is present in 99 percent of Hispanic households. Spanish-language Univision is the most popular station, followed by Spanish-language Telemundo. ABC and NBC tie for a distant third among Hispanic viewers.

Hispanics also favor Spanish-language music. Latin music was the survey's most popular category, with 30 percent of respondents listing it as their favorite.

Interestingly, 55 percent of respondents said they prefer advertising in English, with only 39 percent expressing a preference for Spanish.

The survey's respondents were unlikely to read many books in Spanish or English, with 51 percent saying they read only one to five books per year.

Hispanics are also relatively unlikely to use the Internet. Only 29 percent of respondents said they had Internet service in their homes.

Some of the survey's more troubling results show that U.S. Hispanics are unlikely to invest their savings in the ways conducive to long-term prosperity.

"Sadly, Hispanics are far behind the curve when it comes to utilizing the principal vehicle for generating long-term wealth: the financial markets," Jutkowitz wrote.

The study revealed that only 22 percent of Hispanics invest in stocks or bonds and only 37 percent put their money in 401(k) or other pension plans.

Meanwhile, only 13 percent of the poll's Hispanic respondents said they own mutual funds.

Jutkowitz cited three reasons for Hispanics aversion to investment -- earning power, education and culture.

Hispanics in the United States earn less than other residents, which leaves them less to invest. Of those surveyed, 35 percent earn less than $35,000 per year.

Hispanics also lag behind in education, often a prerequisite for investment. Only 35 percent have any college education and only 70 percent completed high school.

Furthermore few Hispanic immigrants come from countries with historically strong and stable financial systems, which leads to a cultural tendency not to invest, Jutkowitz said.

Low investment rates are not likely to help Bush's efforts to attract the Hispanic vote. A poll published in the January issue of Money magazine shows that Bush is more popular with investors than with other groups. Of the investors Money surveyed, 50 percent said they would vote for Bush if the 2004 election were held that day. Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean, the next most popular candidate in that poll, would receive just 9 percent of the vote.

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