Sen. Obama leads in the polls, but Sen. McCain may need only 35 percent of the Hispanic vote to gain the White House. Both sides say that winning the Hispanic vote is critical.
Anyone out to learn how diverse Hispanic communities might vote in the 2008 presidential election must look well beyond the stereotype that U.S. Hispanics are singly concerned about immigration and language-related issues. The truth is, most are more concerned about the economy, education, health care, and the war in Iraq. Which candidate is able to fully grasp this reality, and can construct a platform that most aligns with the majority of U.S. Hispanic concerns in these areas, is likely to gain ground. It is clear that both major candidates for the White House recognize that their own prospects could ride on reaching America's largest minority.
Hispanic voters could, indeed, be critical in determining how electoral votes are cast in states like Florida, Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico and thus determine the next U.S. president, said Mark Lopez, associate director of the Pew Hispanic Center in Washington, D.C.
With that in mind, Hispanic business executives around the country work today to influence opinions on their own and raise money for Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain to appeal to Hispanic voters on a grander scale.
"Values Trump Issues"
Sen. Obama has committed more than twice the combined sum spent for Hispanic outreach by President George W. Bush and Democratic challenger John Kerry during the 2004 campaign.
"The Hispanic vote is critical. That's why both candidates are working fervently to win a good margin from our community," said Albuquerque resident Edward L. Romero, who served as U.S. ambassador to Spain from 1998-2001. Previously, he was founder and owner of Advanced Sciences Inc., and one of this nation's most successful Hispanic businessmen.
Appeals to U.S. Hispanics increasingly are crafted with precision. "Values trump issues," said Antonio Gonzalez, president of the Southwest Voter Registration and Education Project. "Basically, you have to make your case on the core issues with a values-based message. Voters want to know that a candidate has their same internal compass."
Early advertising by Sen. McCain aims directly at traditional Hispanic values. John McCain "shares our conservative values and faith in God," a surrogate for Sen. McCain intones in Spanish for a radio ad recently referred to by The New York Times. He "knows that family is the most important thing we have and that we value hard work," Frank Gamboa says in the ad. Mr. Gamboa was Sen. McCain's roommate at the U.S. Naval Academy.
The ad is certain to score for Sen. McCain as a "values-based message" but there is evidence that the Republican nominee will need much more with a Hispanic electorate that is increasingly well-informed and opinionated on the issues driving the presidential campaign. Many U.S. Hispanics who vote do not subscribe to Spanish-language media.
Obama Leads In Polls
On the issues, Sen. Obama has a substantial lead among Hispanics over Sen. McCain. Education, the cost of living, jobs, and health care ranked as the most important issues among Hispanics in a June-July survey by the Pew Hispanic Center. Crime, the war in Iraq, and immigration followed in importance as presidential campaign issues. The Pew survey showed Hispanics favoring Sen. Obama over Sen. McCain by a three-to-one ratio on education, jobs, health care, the cost of living, and immigration and about two-to-one on Iraq and crime. Overall, the Pew survey showed Sen. Obama leading Sen. McCain 66 percent to 23 percent among Hispanics. A recent New York Times/CBS News poll of Hispanics showed Sen. Obama ahead 62 percent to 23 percent.
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