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Dems Court Hispanics In Orlando…Kerry's Camp Eyes Vital Vote…Still Up For Grabs…"An Early Advantage" Over Bush In Central FL

Democrats Court Hispanic Vote In Orlando

May 12, 2004
Copyright © 2004 EFE News Service. All rights reserved.

Orlando, Florida, May 12 (EFE).- In an effort to attract the Hispanic vote in central Florida, state Democratic leaders have established the headquarters of their party's Puerto Rican Caucus in this city.

"We're here to remind Hispanics which party is the one that's given us a voice over the years and that the more we register and vote the stronger our voice is," Caucus president Evelyn Rivera, a native of Puerto Rico, told EFE.

The headquarters was opened Tuesday night on the eve of a visit to Orlando by Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry.

"We want Hispanics in central Florida who have the right to vote, be they Puerto Ricans or from elsewhere in Latin America, to exercise that right, and to do so responsibly and with their eyes open," Rivera said.

Rivera said she believed Hispanics would acknowledge what the Democrats have done for their community and "won't be carried off by empty words."

"We (Hispanics) are sick and tired of having these people come around here just before election time and say 'Mi Casa Es Su Casa' ("My Home Is Your Home"), then just ignore us the rest of the time," she said.

The majority of Puerto Ricans in central Florida are registered Democrats, but most of them fail to vote, Rivera said.

To counteract this tendency, the Puerto Rican Democratic Caucus plans to launch an "extensive and intensive" information campaign within the Hispanic community, Caucus spokesman Luis Berrios said.

That effort will get underway this weekend, when the Second Congress of Latino Leaders draws an expected 300 Democratic leaders and supporters from across the country to Orlando.

In the 2000 election, most Hispanics in central Florida voted for then-Democratic candidate Al Gore, and Democrats want to see Kerry receive similar support this November.

Kerry's Camp Eyes Vital Vote Of Hispanics


May 16, 2004
Copyright © 2004
THE MIAMI HERALD. All rights reserved.

ORLANDO - National Democrats sought to rally Hispanics in support of John Kerry on Saturday as his campaign looked to quell criticism that the likely Democratic presidential nominee has yet to pay attention to the critically important voting bloc.

''Some have said that the campaign hasn't done enough. I'm here to tell you that when this campaign is over we will have made an unprecedented effort to talk to Latino voters,'' Antonio Villaraigosa, a Los Angeles city councilman and national co-chair of the Kerry campaign, told 350 Hispanic activists meeting at an airport hotel.

``We're going to talk to Latino voters, we're going to speak to their hearts and minds.''

Villaraigosa's comments at the Democratic National Committee's Latino Leadership Summit follow complaints by some Hispanics about what they say are too few minorities in Kerry's inner circle and a lack of an effort to woo Hispanics, a key voting group in several battleground states, including Florida.

Villaraigosa acknowledged the criticism but said the post-primary campaign is just beginning to come together.

''One could argue that he hasn't done enough but we've been putting together a campaign over the last eight weeks,'' Villaraigosa said in an interview. ``You'll see a Latino initiative, you'll hear Spanish-speaking spots.''


Kerry in recent weeks has sought to make inroads, giving his first national Hispanic TV interviews last week -- and this week, holding a town hall meeting in a primarily Hispanic neighborhood in Orlando.

He has told reporters that he is learning Spanish via language tapes and practiced his skills in one interview by accusing President Bush -- in Spanish -- of breaking promises on education.

But some Hispanics warned that the Massachusetts senator runs the risk of appearing aloof and needs to develop deeper ties with the Hispanic community.

''My suggestion to the next president is to go to New Mexico and Texas and eat some tacos,'' said Hialeah Mayor Raul Martinez, tapped by a Democratic group as an Hispanic outreach coordinator. ``He needs to get some of that pepper inside of him.''

Bush narrowly secured the White House in 2000 in part by luring away traditionally Democratic Hispanics -- drawing 35 percent of the Hispanic vote -- and energized Republicans are launching an aggressive Hispanic outreach effort to boost his numbers.


The bilingual Gov. Jeb Bush launched his brother's national outreach effort in Orlando last month and President Bush has sought to shore up faltering support among Cuban Americans in Miami by tightening restrictions against Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Bush this week began airing Spanish TV and radio spots in Arizona, Florida, Nevada and New Mexico, touting his record on education.

Kerry has yet to air any ads in Spanish, though campaign officials say he soon will and note that he was one of few Democrats to use Spanish ads during the primaries.

Strategists suggest that Kerry must keep Bush's support among Hispanic Americans to less than 35 percent if he is to have a shot at taking the White House.

Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe said in an interview that his goal is 75 percent of the Hispanic vote. He noted that the party has launched a number of efforts, including moving up the Democratic primary calendar so that states with large Hispanic populations, such as Arizona and New Mexico, were participants in picking the nominee.

''No disrespect to Iowa or New Hampshire, but the population is not representative of our party,'' McAuliffe said.

And over three days in Orlando, party officials hope to train dozens of activists to speak out on behalf of the Kerry campaign.

Democratic strategists acknowledged Saturday that the burgeoning Hispanic population, now 9 percent of the electorate, could hold the key to the November election, and some suggested that the party has been late in recognizing this.


''The single factor that will determine the next majority party is going to be how it fares with the Hispanic community,'' said Simon Rosenberg, president of the New Democrat Network, which is spending $5 million on Spanish-language TV and radio spots that tout the Democratic party. ``We have not yet had an adequate strategic approach to that.''

Strategists said Hispanics can make the difference in close states like Florida, which Bush won by a mere 537 votes. And in Arizona, Republicans won the state by fewer than 100,000 votes.

''Latinos can easily make up that difference,'' said Luis Elizondo-Thomson, director of Hispanic outreach for Kerry's campaign.

Marty Chavez, the mayor of Albuquerque and vice-chair of the Democratic Mayors Association, warned that Kerry and the Democrats need to nurture a relationship with the Hispanic community and not just surf for votes in November.

''I don't want a one night stand with this administration,'' Chavez said. "I want an eight-year marriage.''

Poll: Latino Vote Still Up For Grabs

May 17, 2004
Copyright © 2004 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc. All rights reserved.

President Bush leads in the contest for Florida's potentially decisive Latino vote but is failing to cut into John Kerry's strength with Latinos in the Southwest battlegrounds of Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada.

Those are the findings in a poll to be released Tuesday by the New Democrat Network, an independent group allied with the Democratic Party. Since December, the group has spent $1 million on Spanish-language TV and radio ads promoting Democratic policies in the four swing states, where both major parties are targeting Hispanic voters.

The Bush campaign on Thursday launched its own two-week, $250,000 buy of Spanish-language ads in those states. The Republican ads bash Kerry on education, countering an anti-Bush spot titled ''Broken Promises'' that the pro-Democratic group is running.

In 2000, Bush carried Florida, Arizona and Nevada. He lost to Al Gore in New Mexico by 366 votes.

Sergio Bendixen & Associates, a Democratic firm that polled in Spanish and English, surveyed 1,800 registered Latino voters -- 600 in Florida and 400 in each of the Southwestern states -- from April 15-29. USA TODAY obtained a copy of the results.

In Florida, Bush leads Kerry, a Massachusetts senator, 55%-35%. The numbers resemble the outcome in 2000, when Bush got 61% of the state's Hispanic vote and Gore got 39%.

Bush won Florida, where his brother Jeb is governor, by 537 votes. Cuban-Americans in Miami are the majority of Florida's Hispanic electorate. They gave Bush 80% of their votes and claimed credit for the win. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a Latino Democrat who's being mentioned as a vice presidential possibility, says Kerry's goal is to shave 5% off Bush's Cuban vote while holding Gore's 2000 majority among Puerto Ricans and other non-Cuban Latinos in Florida.

Nationally, Bush won 35% of the Latino vote in 2000. Matthew Dowd, chief strategist for the Bush campaign, says it will be hard to win re-election unless Bush raises his share to 40%. In the new poll, Bush falls short with the large Hispanic population in the Southwest. He is backed by 31% in Nevada and by 30% in Arizona and New Mexico. But Bush reached 38% in a nationwide Pew Hispanic Center poll released April 19.

Bendixen says the Latino vote is ''very much up for grabs.'' About 40% of his poll's respondents said they were undecided or could change their minds. In the rest of the electorate, 85%-90% say their minds are made up, he says.

Reed Dickens, a Bush-Cheney campaign spokesman, declined to comment specifically on the latest poll. ''We feel that regardless of which voting constituency is being addressed, the choice is clear that Sen. Kerry's plans to raise taxes would be devastating to the economy,'' Dickens said.

The poll's margin of error is +/- 4 percentage points for Florida and +/- 5 percentage points for Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada.

Kerry "Has Gained An Early Advantage" Over Bush Among Hispanic Voters In Central FL

Bendixen There, Done That

May 14, 2004
Copyright © 2004 National Journal Group Inc. All rights reserved.

The Hotline

John Kerry "has gained an early advantage" over Pres. Bush among Hispanic voters in Central FL, according to a new poll "that also shows large numbers open to persuasion by either candidate." As "a measure of how competitive" the WH '04 contest will be among FL's Hispanic voters, the survey "shows 2 in 5 either undecided or willing to change their minds before Election Day." Pollster Sergio Bendixen: "The thing that should be clear is the volatility of this electorate."

More Bendixen: "In an election where people are so closely divided and so few are undecided, the fact is that -- in maybe the most important state in the country -- this group of important voters may have every 2 in 5 up for grabs." Bendixen, "a respected Coral Gables-based pollster with years of expertise in surveys of Hispanic voters," conducted the poll for New Dem Network.

Among Orlando-area Hispanic voters, Bendixen's late-4/04 survey found Kerry leading Bush 54%-33%. These voters "account for nearly 1 in 5" of all 1M Hispanic voters statewide, "who in turn could account for 1 in 8 votes cast" 11/2.

The Bush camp "is organizing a door-knocking and phone-calling campaign" in Central FL's Hispanic communities "and maintains that once it 'communicates' about Kerry's support for higher taxes, voters will come around to Bush." Bush spokesperson Reed Dickens, 5/13: "We're confident about Central Florida."

In spite of Kerry's strength in Central FL, Bush "still leads among Hispanic voters statewide." The poll found Bush leading Kerry 55%-35%, a measure of Bush's "strong support among the Cuban-American community" in South FL. Cuban-born voters "account for nearly half of the survey," and 80% back Bush.

Bush's approval rating stands at 60% "among all Hispanic voters in the survey" conducted 4/20-4/29.

And "after two months of concerted and contentious advertising in English and Spanish, more of these voters statewide have a negative view of Kerry," 36%, "than those who have a positive view," 32%.

The fight for Central FL's "swing-voting Puerto Rican and other Hispanic voters is critical to success" in FL, "where opinion polls repeatedly have portrayed a dead heat among all voters surveyed" for WH '04.

Meanwhile, a "slim majority of Hispanic voters statewide say Bush is doing a good or excellent job of improving the public schools." And "education, pollsters are finding, is a paramount concern among Hispanic voters" in WH '04. The campaigns' TV "crossfire reflects that."

Bendixen also said his survey of 600 FL Hispanic voters, "his largest ever, suggests that pro-Kerry ads have had an impact in the Orlando area. Bendixen surveyed Orlando-area Hispanics before the ads started airing" in 12/03 and found an unnamed Dem nominee favored among 39%, Bush 42%.

NDN spokesperson Maria Cardona: "It's no coincidence why the Bush campaign is going up with a huge Spanish-language buy on education. ... They are seeing the same numbers" (Silva, Orlando Sentinel, 5/14).

Some Registration Forms With Your Salsa Tunes?

Along "with booming salsa tunes and steaming plates of Puerto Rican delicacies, leaders of a massive voter-registration effort served notice" 5/13 "that Hispanics will be a major force" in WH '04. Puerto Rico Fed Affairs Admin. exec. dir. Mari Carmen Aponte: "If we think about it, the last election was won right here with 537 votes." Aponte said WH '04 "could hinge on Hispanic turnout." Aponte, "using a term some Puerto Ricans prefer to call themselves": "Hey, we've registered 37,000. You can call that Boricua swing."

The admin. opened the state's new HQs for a nationwide, two-year, $12M voter-registration drive called "Que Nada Nos Detenga!" ("Let Nothing Stop Us") "targeted at Puerto Ricans and other Hispanics." The drive "already has netted" 225K new voters nationwide, including the 37K in FL. The local HQs "will coordinate roughly 100 field workers" across FL.

The 5/13 rally "took place in the heart of the Interstate 4 corridor, where pollsters think" FL's EVs "will be won or lost." Osceola Co. "is also the epicenter" of FL's Puerto Rican population, "a growing chunk of the highly sought-after Hispanic vote."

Since '90, the number of Puerto Ricans in FL has doubled to 650K, "with most of that growth centered" in Central FL, "according to agency and census numbers"

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