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Hispanics to Carry Clout at PollsHispanic Candidate Just a Dream... Kerry, Bush Target Hispanic Voters with Campaign Ads... Both Parties Court Key Vote

Hispanics to Carry Clout at Polls
An increase in Hispanic voters, especially in key states such as Florida, will help them play a pivotal role in the election, a nonpartisan Hispanic group predicted.


May 26, 2004
Copyright © 2004 The Miami Herald. All rights reserved.

WASHINGTON-- One million new Hispanic voters, including 160,000 in the battleground state of Florida, will have a major role in deciding this fall's presidential election, a nonpartisan group of Hispanic leaders predicted Tuesday.

Hispanic voters in Florida will account for 13.2 percent of the electorate, up from 11.3 percent in 2000, according to projections by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, or NALEO.

The group also projected that 6.9 million Hispanics will vote nationwide, accounting for 6.1 percent of the total vote.

The projections were based on trends in turnout since 1992, and the 2000 U.S. Census.

In the last two presidential elections, NALEO's estimates have been within 3 percent of the turnout, said Arturo Vargas, the group's executive director.

Getting Attention

One reason for a higher turnout this year is ''the great amount of attention'' both President Bush and Sen. John Kerry are devoting to Hispanic voters, Vargas said.

The chance to elect the first Hispanic senator in 27 years will also motivate Hispanic voters in Florida and Colorado. Republican Mel Martínez and Democrat Alex Penelas, two Cuban Americans, will be on the Aug. 31 primary ballot, and Democrat Ken Salazar, state attorney general, is running in Colorado.

In recent forums in Miami and four other cities, Hispanic voters listed education, healthcare and the economy as more important issues than immigration, and ''there is an increasing concern about the war in Iraq,'' Vargas said.

In its survey of past turnouts, NALEO found that recent citizens are more likely to vote than U.S.-born Hispanics. In Florida, 55 percent of the Hispanic voters four years ago were naturalized.

Florida Important

Both parties are working hard to attract Hispanic voters, and Florida is a special target. Many new Hispanic voters do not have a firm party affiliation.

Republicans, led by Gov. Jeb Bush, launched an effort last month in Orlando to mobilize Hispanic voters. The New Democrat Network, a centrist group, has launched a $5 million campaign with Spanish-language ads that have run in Florida, New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada.

In 2000, President Bush captured about 35 percent of the national Hispanic vote, and his campaign has set a goal of 40 percent to help ensure his reelection.

According to a Herald poll last month, Kerry held a wide lead over Bush among Hispanics -- 58 percent to 33 percent -- but the pollster said the support for Kerry was not firm.

Hispanic Candidate Just a Dream

By MICHAEL RILEY, Staff Writer

The Denver Post

June 22, 2004
Copyright © 2004 The Denver Post. All rights reserved.

Activists searching for the first Hispanic who can make a serious presidential run believe they finally have their man.

The great-grandson of an immigrant farmworker, he's a self-made businessman and bilingual war veteran. He has the polish to appeal to an up-and- coming generation of young Hispanic voters and the résumé to reach out to the suburban middle class.

America, meet Victor Lopez.

The fact that he's played by an actor and will vanish well before the November vote is no drawback.

In fact, it's part of the point.

"We wanted to put a candidate out there and say this is Victor Lopez, this is your dream come true in front of you," said Mario Velasquez, one of Lopez's creators. "Then we wanted to create a tragedy at the end, which was Victor Lopez does not exist. He never will unless you vote."

Lopez could be presidential politics' first fantasy candidate.

He'll stage glitzy campaign events and air slick commercials. While other candidates jet across the country glad- handing campaign contributors, the well-groomed Lopez will talk policy on late-night TV and chum around with Hispanic pop stars.

Organizers are in talks with actor Benicio Del Toro to play Lopez. On the candidate's first spot, according to plan, the actor's heavily made-up face will morph to Del Toro encouraging Hispanics to get involved.

The brainchild of a group called Fuerza Latina, a Hispanic version of Rock the Vote, Lopez is the most innovative of several efforts aimed at mobilizing hundreds of thousands of new Hispanics voters in the run-up to the November election.

Those efforts also underscore a dilemma for Hispanics, who vote at significantly lower rates than many other ethnic groups.

Dan Sena, regional director for Moving America Forward, which hopes to register 250,000 new Hispanic and Native American voters in the coming months, said Colorado illustrates the problem Hispanics face in translating growing numbers into political power.

Of the state's Hispanics, 73 percent are eligible to vote by age and citizenship, Sena said. Only 43 percent are registered.

That means there are 220,000 potential Hispanic voters in Colorado who could cast a ballot but - unless they register - won't.

Moving America Forward, which has opened an office in Denver, plans to put 230 organizers in five states where the Hispanic population has grown faster than its political power: Florida, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona.

The Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, a voter-organizing effort that goes back to the 1970s and is partnered with Fuerza Latina, is casting a wider net

Antonio Gonzalez, the group's president, said it will have field operations this year in 16 states. The goal is to register 233,000 new Hispanic voters, including as many as 15,000 in Colorado.

Beyond that, each of the major presidential campaigns has a multimillion-dollar program to grab more Hispanic voters, including the 3 million who may enter a voting booth for the first time this year.

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry plans to bus Hispanics from Democratic strongholds such as California to battleground states with large Hispanic populations to campaign for him.

But Hispanic organizers face a double challenge.

The growing Hispanic population is far younger than many other ethnic groups. Among Hispanics, 7.4 percent are between ages 18 and 24, compared with 4.5 percent among whites.

That means that a big percentage of potential Hispanic voters are part of the country's most politically apathetic age group. About a third of people between ages 18 and 24 vote, compared with two-thirds over 65.

Velasquez, the creative mind behind Lopez's candidacy, knows the difficulties in reaching young voters. As former president of Rock the Vote, Velasquez used everything from hip-hop stars to online voter registration to get America's youth politically pumped.

But when Velasquez and his team began looking for political leaders who could motivate Hispanics and appeal to all Americans, they came up empty.

Cruz Bustamante burned out in California's 2003 gubernatorial recall. Henry Cisneros, once the leading light of Hispanic politics, was felled by scandal. Even Bill Richardson, New Mexico's energetic Hispanic governor, may lack the base to draw support nationally.

"The prominent Latino politicians that you see today, they are part of the generation of the civil rights movement," Velasquez said. "They had to fight African-Americans and Native Americans for every little bone that was handed out. Along they way, they became very localized and very identified with their community.

"You don't see Latino politicians saying health care is a problem in America. You hear them saying Latinos are not getting their health care."

With his designer candidate, Velasquez can erase those problems.

Victor Lopez is successful, smart and smooth, according to the slick biography created for him by Velasquez's team. He calls himself a "modern conservative," tapping into both Hispanics' progressive leanings on social issues and strong association with family and work.

Through Lopez, Velasquez hopes to create a modern political icon for a new generation of Hispanic voters.

Victor Lopez "is not saying join the United Farm Workers of America so you can get better pay. He's saying you need to own the farm," Velasquez said. "In a democracy, numbers mean power. We are 38.5 million people. We are the largest minority group in the United States, and we have the power to cease to be invisible."

Kerry, Bush Target Hispanic Voters with Campaign Ads

July 12, 2004

BLOOMBERG -- Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry's staff announced they will spend $1 million on advertising targeted at Hispanic voters as President George W. Bush's campaign launched a commercial on Spanish-language radio.

Kerry's advertising is focused on Spanish-language television, radio and in newspapers in states, including Florida and Ohio, that the campaign is targeting in the November election. ``Hispanic-Americans are a key part of John Kerry's campaign,'' spokeswoman Allison Dobson said.

The Bush ad will run in many of the 18 states where both the president and Kerry are spending the most on advertising and personal visits, Bush campaign spokesman Scott Stanzel said. He declined to say how much is being spent on the ad and said the effort wasn't a response to Kerry.

``We've been advertising on Spanish-language outlets throughout the campaign, so it's a consistent part of our outreach,'' he said.

Hispanics are the biggest minority group in the U.S., the U.S. Census Bureau reported last year, and they are a significant pool of voters in states such as New Mexico and Florida that both campaigns say will be battlegrounds for the presidential election.

Important Constituency

``It's one of the most important constituencies that any politician or political party can talk to these days,'' saidMaria Cardona, senior vice president of the New Democrat Network, a Washington-based advocacy group that supports free trade and a balanced federal budget.

``Because of the growth in the Hispanic community, the party that best communicates its message to them in the most compelling way is going to be the majority party for the next decade or more,'' she said.

The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials estimates, for example, that Hispanic voters will account for 13 percent of the vote in Florida and 30 percent of the vote in New Mexico. In 2000, Democrat Al Gore won New Mexico by 366 votes out of almost 600,000 cast, and Florida went to Bush by a 537-ballot margin after the U.S. Supreme Court halted a recount.

Hispanic voters historically have supported Democratic candidates; in 2000, exit polls showed Gore received 62 percent of the Hispanic vote nationally. Bush, 58, has sought to chip away at that advantage with proposals such as granting temporary permits to undocumented workers and supporting letting Mexican truckers ship beyond border areas.

Hispanic Support

A Gallup Organization poll conducted June 9-30 found Kerry, 60, had support from 57 percent of Hispanic voters surveyed nationwide, compared with 38 percent who supported Bush.

The survey found Bush's approval rating among Hispanics dropped by 27 points from last year, from 67 percent to 40 percent, while his approval among whites declined only 8 points, from 69 percent to 61 percent. The survey of 2,250 adults age 18 and older, including 500 Hispanics, had a margin of error of five percentage points. The error margin for the sample of Hispanics is 8 percentage points.

``The Hispanic community will make the critical difference in the next election given the tremendous growth and involvement of this community,'' Aida Alvarez, who headed the Small Business Administration in the Clinton administration, said in a conference call arranged by the Kerry campaign.

The 30-second Kerry ad is a biographical spot calling the four-term Massachusetts senator ``a man of faith, a man of family, a man of honor, a man for our community.''

Along with Florida and Ohio, the ads also will run in Nevada, Colorado, Oregon, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, North Carolina, Washington and Arizona.

The 60-second Bush ad criticizes Kerry for missing votes in the Senate while campaigning. The ad says Kerry did show up to vote against legislation limiting how much money patients injured by medical malpractice could collect in damages, and against allowing someone who violently attacks a pregnant woman to be prosecuted separately for attacking the fetus.

``When you find out about Kerry's extreme voting record, it makes you wish he never showed up to vote,'' the ad says.

Both Parties Court Key Hispanic Vote

Associated Press

July 16, 2004
Copyright © 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

SAN FRANCISCO -- When the Southwest Voter Registration and Education Fund, a nonpartisan Hispanic advocacy group, scored Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards to headline its 30th anniversary gala tonight in Los Angeles, it was just the latest sign of the rapidly growing political clout of Hispanic voters in the 2004 election and the efforts by both major parties to court them.

About 40 million strong and counting, Hispanics are the largest minority group in the United States and are heavily represented in several key presidential battleground states, including Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and Florida. And while Hispanics have been a reliable Democratic constituency in recent election years -- voting in favor of the Democratic presidential candidate by a two-to-one margin or more in the last decade -- Republicans have made aggressive efforts to court Hispanic voters and close that margin over time.

While the number of Hispanics has increased rapidly, voter participation has lagged. About 5.9 million Hispanic voters went to the polls in 2000; Southwest Voter and other organizations plan to bring the total number of registered Hispanic voters to 10 million this year, and send at least 7.5 million to the polls.

"We haven’t had a presidential campaign since 1976 where the Latino vote hasn’t set records; a culture of voting is taking hold," said Antonio Gonzalez, president of Southwest Voter.

To that end, Southwest Voter, which raises money from foundations and individuals but no political parties or candidates, has budgeted nearly $5 million for voter registration and turnout efforts across 20 states --with particular emphasis on Western battlegrounds and Florida.

Meanwhile, as advocates work to increase Hispanic turnout, both parties are pouring resources into an aggressive campaign to shore up or increase their margin of Hispanic support.

President Bush won 35 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2000 -- substantially more than the 21 percent Bob Dole garnered in 1996 -- and the Bush re-election campaign has made an aggressive push to boost that figure.

The campaign has Hispanic outreach groups in 30 states and has spent about $1.1 million since March on Spanish language television ads.

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