While most of Romney’s Spanish ads are translations of his national messages, several have made direct appeals to Latino voters. Two spots released in July featured Romney’s son Craig, who speaks excellent Spanish and looks almost as if he could be Latino. Craig warmly introduces his father and in one ad highlights that his grandfather—Mitt’s father George Romney—was born in Mexico. A third Spanish ad released in four swing states in September features popular Florida Senator Marco Rubio reassuring voters that Romney’s Medicare plans will strengthen the program for senior citizens like Rubio’s mother.
Last week, a Romney advertisement sparked controversy by criticizing Obama for failing to deliver on immigration reform and pledging that Republicans would deliver a permanent solution for undocumented youth. A fact check by ABC News/Univision noted that while Romney has supported easing the process of legally obtaining a visa, he has opposed the DREAM Act, pledged to end the Obama administration’s “deferred action” policy that allows some undocumented youth to avoid deportation, and as Governor of Massachusetts vetoed a bill that would have allowed undocumented students to pay in-state tuition at public universities.
Overall, the Obama campaign has not only crafted more distinct messages in Spanish, but it has invested much more in getting them out. An October 18th article in The New York Times—which examined the two campaigns’ differing Latino outreach strategies—reported that the Obama campaign and its supporters had spent an estimated $8.9 million on Spanish-language TV stations in Florida, Nevada and Colorado, nearly double the $4.6 million spent by the Romney team. The figures were compiled by Kantar Media, a private research firm that tracks campaign ads as they air and estimates their cost based on market ad rates.
A September article in The Huffington Post noted that the Obama campaign hired a Latino media coordinator in August 2011, nearly a year before the Romney camp launched a Latino outreach team. “This is a diverse and sophisticated electorate,” Gabriela Domenzain, the Obama campaign’s Latino media coordinator, told HuffPost. “You can’t just put out one message and think that speaks to 50 million people.”
Whether it is partially an effect of the ad campaign, or a preexisting preference based on the candidates’ policies and records, polls show Obama winning big among Latinos. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released on Monday showed Obama leading by a whopping 45 points among Latino voters. Unlike polls of the overall electorate, which have showed the race tightening in recent weeks, Obama’s advantage among Latinos has held steady.
As the presidential race reaches the final sprint, some commentators have predicted that the Obama campaign will rely on targeted messages aimed at key groups rather than a single overarching theme. If that is the case, some of the president’s crucial closing arguments are likely be delivered in Spanish in places like Colorado, Florida, Nevada, Ohio and Virginia. Reporters in these swing states and beyond should be ready to translate the president’s words to the broader public and examine the accuracy and fairness of his claims—and to watchdog with equal vigor should Romney respond with any special messages of his own.