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Both Sides Count On Hispanic Vote Could Hold Key To A Win GOP Approach Bush, Kerry Campaigns Target Floridas Minorities
Both Sides Count On Hispanic Vote in SW
By Andy Lenderman
October 14, 2004
TEMPE, Ariz. Top Democratic Party leaders said here Wednesday that strong support from Hispanic voters can make states like Arizona, Colorado and Nevada competitive for Sen. John Kerry.
"I think you will see over the next few weeks the hardening of Latino support for Sen. Kerry," said Henry Cisneros, former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, during a news conference aimed at heightening the importance of the Southwest in the presidential contest. "... This will be particularly important in the Southwestern states."
Meanwhile, Bush's director of the federal Small Business Administration, Hector Barreto, countered Wednesday that one poll shows Kerry with historically low support among Hispanic voters for a Democratic presidential candidate.
"We're going to fight for this vote," Barreto added in an interview here.
Kerry apparently had a slight edge over Bush in New Mexico earlier this month, according to an Albuquerque Journal poll. But he appears to be trailing President Bush in Arizona, Colorado and Nevada, according to the Web site realclearpolitics.com.
Cisneros and Terry McAuliffe, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, appealed to Hispanic voters and discussed the role of this growing part of the electorate at the news conference at Arizona State University. They gathered there for the third and final presidential debate at ASU's Grady Gammage Memorial Auditorium.
Cisneros said Hispanic voters are disappointed in President Bush's record on issues such as health care and education. Bush successfully appealed to a greater than usual percentage of Hispanic voters for a Republican in 2000, which may have helped him win the presidency.
"Trotting out some tamales at an event, speaking a few words in Spanish pale in comparison to whether or not you can advance your job, educate your children, have health insurance when the family gets into a medical difficulty," Cisneros said.
But Barreto, who campaigned with the president in Hobbs on Monday, said here Wednesday that more Hispanics own their homes and businesses now than ever before.
"The bottom line is that Hispanics have conservative values and they know that Sen. Kerry is the most liberal senator in the United States Senate," Barreto said.
There are 2 million businesses in America owned by Hispanics, Barreto said. And his agency has increased loans and contracts to Hispanics, he said.
Barreto noted that the race between Bush and Kerry remains competitive in New Mexico, despite Gov. Bill Richardson, a popular Democrat who is also the country's only Hispanic governor.
"It tells you that the Hispanic community is not going to be fooled, and they're going to vote for the strong leader," Barreto said.
Cisneros also discussed why he thought New Mexico remained so closely divided in the presidential race.
"It's always been a fight to the finish. That's the nature of New Mexico," Cisneros said.
Hispanics Could Hold Key To A Win
Traditionally Democrat, with independent streak
By Greg Botelho
October 18, 2004
MIAMI LAKES, Florida (CNN) -- At Hale's Health Foods on 67th Ave. in the heavily Latino town of Miami Lakes, conversation doesn't revolve around herbal teas, vitamin supplements or low-fat snacks, it's focused on presidential politics.
Self-proclaimed independents Michael Maldonado, of Puerto Rican descent, and Angela Garrison, a Cuban-American, go toe-to-toe on the presidential candidates this October morning.
"It's going to be a very close election," said Maldonado, a Web page designer. "People talk about it all the time."
The discourse in showdown states like Florida is common.
Communities like Miami Lakes, which is two-thirds Latino, could determine who will reside in the White House.
And while Latino voter participation traditionally lags behind that of whites and African-Americans, a growing population and extensive voter outreach efforts should mean 1 million more Hispanics voting this year than in 2000, according to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, or NALEO.
Latinos could sway the outcome in pivotal states such as Florida (where NALEO predicts 160,000 more Hispanic voters in 2004 than in 2000), Arizona (a 70,000 rise), New Jersey (23,000), New Mexico (11,000) and Colorado (8,000).
These projections would seem to bolster Sen. John Kerry given Latinos identify themselves as Democrats more than as Republicans by a two-to-one margin.
A poll, conducted between September 27 and October 3 for the conservative-leaning Latino Coalition, found Kerry had 47 percent support to Bush's 38 percent (well off the traditional party split) among registered Hispanic voters.
Hispanics "split" their ballots, that is they support candidates from both parties, more often than many, especially African-Americans, who more likely vote exclusively for a party's slate.
"They have demonstrated their willingness to cross party lines, even punish candidates in some cases," said NALEO Executive Director Arturo Vargas. "Latinos have become sophisticated voters. They are not in the back pocket of any party."
Differences, similarities among Latinos
Hispanics represented 13.7 percent of the U.S. population in 2003, the U.S. Census Bureau reports, up from 9 percent in 1990. That ratio is expected to hit 24 percent by July 1, 2050, growing to 102.6 million people from the 39.9 million measured in summer 2003.
This population is diverse in its politics. Priority issues vary regionally. Latinos in California are more likely to focus on immigration and alien residency, for example, while Latinos in New York and Chicago place more importance on the war in Iraq, says Clarissa Martinez, director of the National Council of La Raza's public policy advocacy division.
The nonprofit, nonpartisan, organization is dedicated to improving life opportunities for Hispanic Americans, according to its Web site.
Differences can also be profound within a state. In Florida, the state's large Cuban-American population has strongly tended Republican, "going back to the Bay of Pigs fiasco and Cuban Missile Crisis," said Jamie Suchlicki, director of the University of Miami's Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies.
But while this subset -- particularly older Cuban-Americans -- typically favors tough GOP policies against Cuban leader Fidel Castro, tens of thousands of Latinos have come to the state, particularly central Florida, in recent years from other parts of Latin America.
"There has been greater diversification in recent years, and that's made the population very interesting to watch," said Martinez. "This community is still up for grabs. It's a big factor."
Republicans in Florida and Democrats in Colorado hope the presence of Senate candidates Mel Martinez and Ken Salazar, respectively, on the November 2 ballot will boost the party's presidential prospects. But Latinos' independence complicates any predictions, say experts.
A few themes, though, resonate among most. Vargas says education ranks consistently as a top issue for Latinos worried about ill-prepared teachers, underfunded schools (particularly in urban areas) and soaring Hispanic dropout rates.
"They see their success in this country as tied fundamentally to educational success," said Vargas. "There is a sense of crisis."
In various surveys, Latinos also cite jobs and the economy as primary concerns. Nearly 33 percent of Hispanics lacked health care insurance, as of 2003, according to the U.S. Census Bureau -- more than any other ethnic group.
"The main health care issue for Latinos is ... just being able to see a doctor," Martinez said.
Down to Kerry, Bush
Historically low turnout rates, compared to those of white voters, could temper Latinos' impact on Election Day, especially if the disconnect between many in the community and candidates is not bridged.
In a poll sponsored by La Raza and conducted this summer by Zogby International, 58 percent of Hispanics said political candidates do not sufficiently address issues important to their communities. "We have seen renewed attention on the Latino community," said Martinez about efforts by Bush, Kerry and their affiliates targeting Hispanics in recent months. "But we've also seen some misses."
The campaigns have focused primarily on a quarter of Hispanics nationwide -- not the 75 percent who live in non-battleground states like California, Texas and New York -- notes Vargas.
Beyond voter registration and outreach efforts, the biggest factor in who wins the Latino vote depends on how voters feel about the candidates' policies and character.
Martinez notes that Bush, former governor of a border state who curried Hispanic support in 2000, entered the White House with high expectations that he could diversify the Republican Party. But that hope "has gone unfulfilled," said Martinez.
Kerry's voting record, meanwhile, mirrors many Latinos' priorities in terms of education, social programs and the economy.
"But he hasn't been a visible leader, so he hasn't necessarily secured the Latino vote yet," said Martinez.
GOP Approach With Hispanics May Affect Vote
October 20, 2004
Passing through the car lane of a fast-food restaurant in east Orlando on Tuesday, Marytza Sanz smiled at the young Hispanic server before telling her, "Remember to vote."
The woman didn't seem too excited by the proposition: "Let's see if I can."
Sanz, a Democrat who runs the nonpartisan Latino Leadership office in Orlando, tried to rattle off all the reasons voting should matter to the service worker, not the least of which is a state constitutional amendment that would raise the minimum wage by $1 an hour.
Sanz worries that too many voters are still dealing with the aftermath of the recent hurricanes. And she's concerned that political apathy by service workers too busy working two jobs to think about voting will squander a historic moment.
State Rep. John Quiñones, a Puerto Rican-born Republican, isn't squandering a minute of his time. For months, he's been knocking on doors in his predominantly Democratic district, adding the personal touch that means so much to voters. Quiñones' conservative pro-family positions resonate with churchgoing Hispanics, and the GOP hopes that will help President Bush.
The Democrats, for their part, are traveling Florida on their Una Nueva Esperanza bus tour, meaning A New Hope. Puerto Rican politicians from Congress to state legislatures are stumping for Kerry. So is salsa singer Willie Colon.
Can Democrats get out the non-Cuban Hispanic vote? My gut says the GOP is doing a better job of outreach. It's not so much about spending money; both are. It's about strategy.
I've already received three bilingual fliers from either the Florida GOP or the Viva Bush campaign touting the president's leadership on the war on terror or lauding Bush for standing "with parents, teachers and students" on education reforms. Only one anti-Bush bilingual ad has reached my mailbox, from America Coming Together, but that "independent" group by law can't plug Democrat John Kerry. With less than two weeks to go before the election I have yet to get a Kerry campaign flier.
The GOP is focusing on non-affiliated voters like myself while the Democratic Party seems to think that newly registered Hispanic voters will vote Democratic because that's what national polls are showing. That's a big leap of partisan faith.
Puerto Ricans, particularly those from the Northeast, may lean Democratic but a large chunk of newly registered voters -- more than one in five -- is not affiliated with either party.
There's trouble in paradise for Kerry if he thinks the economy, education and health care will trump family values. Clearly, the GOP, which has been hammering Kerry in Spanish radio ads for his votes in Congress on reproductive rights, finds Kerry vulnerable on that front.
Worse, Kerry is not trying to make a case in ads that affordable health care, better-paying jobs and education, combined with faith-based initiatives, which he supports, can help make abortion a rare choice -- an argument Bill Clinton mastered.
National polls showing Kerry ahead by a 2-1 margin among Hispanics are meaningless. State-by-state counts are the only ones that matter, and for Central Florida's veteran-rich, family-values Puerto Rican community, odds are the GOP's campaign will make a difference.
Bush, Kerry Campaigns Target Minorities In Potentially Crucial Florida
October 24, 2004
MIAMI, Oct 24 (AFP) - Faced with a tough and potentially key battle in Florida, the presidential candidates have made minorities a focus of their campaigns, courting each other's supporters as well as undecided voters.
President George W. Bush and his Democratic rival John Kerry have made Florida one of their most frequent campaign destinations, devoting much of their attention to Hispanic, black and Jewish voters.
With opinion polls showing the candidates running a close race in the southeastern state and nationally, a few hundred votes could determine the outcome of the race as it did in 2000, when a 537-vote lead in Florida gave Bush the presidency after five weeks of legal wrangling.
"In a state where everything is close, any peeling off you can do of your opponent's base is seen as optimal," said Susan McManus, a political analyst at the University of South Florida.
Central Florida is at the heart of the battle, as it is considered to have the swing state's strongest percentage of undecided voters, including tens of thousands of Hispanics.
"Both the Democratic and the Republican parties believe that that vote is in play," said Robert Jackson, from Florida State University's political science department.
An influx of migrants from Puerto Rico, Mexico and other Latin American countries in recent years has brought Florida's Hispanic population to over three million and has gradually weakened the influence of the 1.2 million Cuban-Americans.
Long a monolithic Republican bloc, the 500,000 registered voters of Cuban descent are now less staunchly pro-Bush than they were four years ago.
The Democrats are hoping to capitalize on that, banking on studies showing younger members of the community tend to be more interested in domestic issues such as health, jobs and education than the early Cuban immigrants, who often support hardline policies toward President Fidel Castro's communist government.
Conversely, the Republicans, vaunting Bush's strong support of Israel, are trying hard to grab Jewish votes away from the Democrats.
Heavyweights regularly deployed to stump for Bush in Florida include former New York mayors Ed Koch, a Democrat who supports the president, and Rudy Giuliani, a Republican who gained near-hero status for his handling of the September 11, 2001 aftermath.
In the controversial 2000 election, only 19 percent of Florida's 500,000 Jewish voters cast a ballot for Bush. But Republicans are convinced they can do better this time around, and Democrats privately admit they are worried.
"We deserve 90 percent, and we'll get a third. That will guarantee us victory," said Sid Dinerstein, who chairs the Republican party of Palm Beach county.
Bush got about 70 percent of the 120,000-strong Arab-American community's ballots in 2000 but is unlikely to come close to that total this time around.
Democrats on the other hand are confident they will get a strong majority of the votes cast by blacks, who make up about 15 percent of Florida's 17 million population.
A crucial question though is whether Kerry will be able to get the strong African-American turnout analysts say he needs to win Florida.
Votes cast by blacks made up a disproportionately high percentage of those discarded in the 2000 "Florida fiasco" and it remains unclear whether this will motivate them to go to the polls on November 2 or convince them it's not worth the effort.