Democratic officials will unveil a comprehensive get-out-the-vote plan targeting Hispanic voters on Thursday in the hope of using the Latino community's support to seize operating control of Congress in November, while building a loyal base of supporters for the 2004 presidential race.
The Democratic National Committee will direct money and resources to 15 states and dozens of Congressional districts with large Latino populations over the next three months, according to the plan to be unveiled today at the DNC's Summer Meeting in Las Vegas.
DNC officials suggest mobilizing Hispanic voters to support Democratic candidates this fall should help the party hold the Senate majority, take back control of the House, elect governors and put in place dozens of political machines for 2004.
"I know the numbers and Republicans know the numbers, and right now we get 66 percent of the Hispanic vote," said DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe. "We are going to have people on the ground, and we will be out there aggressively getting our message out."
"These people will be there for this year and also very importantly in '04," added DNC spokeswoman Maria Cardona.
Both political parties are trying to build stronger ties with the Latino community, which is the largest ethnic minority in the country, according to the 2000 Census. The National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic advocacy group, estimates there were 5.93 million Latino voters in 2000, and the number is expected to climb to 7.85 million in 2004.
Of the 15 targeted states, Democrats said strong support of Hispanic voters would help Democrats defeat Senate incumbents in Arkansas and Oregon and claim the open seat in North Carolina.
"Those Senate races are shaping up to be really close races, and if we can energize the community we have a chance to pick up those seats," said Andres Gonzales, director of the DNC's Latino and Hispanic outreach.
But Mitch Bainwol, executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said the GOP has already been reaching out to the Latino communities in those states and argued that the Republican Party better represents issues and values important to Hispanic voters.
"I can't quarrel with the assessment that the Hispanic voter is important in those states," Bainwol said. "We didn't have to wait until 90 days before the election to recognize that fact. Our campaigns have been working it, and the Johnny-come-lately effort by the DNC will amount to nothing more than a nice try."
McAuliffe would not say how much money the DNC would spend on the effort, but added he is keeping his pledge to "make this one of his top priorities."
The other states the DNC plans to target include: Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Nevada, New Mexico and Texas.
In addition to reaching out publicly to Hispanic voters, the DNC will also tout its strong ties to the black and gay and lesbian communities at this three-day conference.
"It is very important to bring people together, to keep our whole coalition together," McAuliffe said. "The bottom line is we are right on the issues and Republicans are wrong on the issues."
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