Republicans seeking gains with Latinos have plenty of catching up to do on TV


A Washington Post/Ipsos poll published on Friday found that Hispanic voters still favor the Democrats overall, but the gap between the two parties has narrowed since 2018, while significant differences remain between Hispanic and Latino voters based on factors such as than age and religion.

“Doing this for 32 years, I’ve never seen more races in play to control Congress and the Senate where Latinos now have a large population that will over-index the outcome,” said Democratic strategist Chuck Rocha, who frequently coordinates with companies. to create a Latino-oriented ad. “The decision to advertise in Spanish is now driven by the concentration of our population and some of the largest and most critical races.”

Advertising in Spanish still represents a tiny share of overall political spending on TV and radio — about 2.5% in total for Democrats and 1% for Republicans since the start of 2021, data shows. ‘AdImpact.

Since Labor Day, candidates and outside groups have aired television or radio ads in Spanish in more than two dozen House districts, as well as each of the most competitive Senate races.

The key topics are familiar: Inflation, jobs, and the economy have always been cited as top issues Latinos worry about, even as newer topics like gun control and abortion have entered the mainstream. the fray in recent months. Democrats’ Spanish-language ads hammer jobs and the economy most often, followed by abortion, while crime is the most common topic among Republicans.

Themes are often similar across languages ​​in a given campaign. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) ran ads on the abortion issue in English and Spanish, posting a spot in Spanish highlighting the risk to women with pregnancy complications and victims of assault sexual and one in English. which features a female doctor saying that women should be able to make their own decisions.

Two September ads from Sen. Mark Kelly(D-Arizona)’s campaign shows the nuances of creating similar ads targeted to different demographics. Both focus on quotes from Republican Blake Masters, which revolve around the idea that the candidate’s words matter. But the English version shows clips of Masters disparaging US military leadership, denying women’s pay inequalities and proposing to privatize Social Security, while the spanish version highlights and translates his comments criticizing legal immigration and pathways to citizenship.

Most of the Spanish Senate ads airing since Labor Day are unique, meaning they weren’t dubbed from an existing English spot. But on the House side, more than two-thirds were originally in English and dubbed with a direct Spanish counterpart.

Most House ads in Spanish also began running later in the year, while some Senate campaigns have been running bilingual ads since the spring.

Senate candidates and committees have more resources to spend and have worked with more Latino senior executives, Latino consultants tell POLITICO, while more majority white companies are involved in small races, seeing more dubbing of advertisements in English.

The “one size fits all” approach that some campaigns use to dub their ads in English won’t work in states with different Latino subcultures, from subject matter to regional dialects of choice, they added.

“You can increase spend and you can increase reach, but if the message isn’t resonating with people…it’s the wrong messenger,” said Gabriela Cid, Spanish messaging consultant at Equis Research, a company progressive Latino-oriented. “It’s important to involve people who understand the Latino community, people who speak Spanish and can meet the needs of our people.”

And Rocha added that more carefully planned Spanish-language advertising in several states is helping candidates move up and down the Democratic ticket.

“In Nevada and Pennsylvania, Democratic candidates for Congress fare better with Latinos because the Senate carries water,” Rocha said. “In states like Texas or New Mexico or California where there’s no Senate race and where there hasn’t been a ton of Spanish television statewide, you see congressional candidates lagging behind because there has been no communication with the community.”

The lack of broad and consistent Spanish advertising may have an effect on Spanish-dominant voters, despite making up less than a fifth of the wider Hispanic electorate.

Nearly 40% of Latinos can’t tell which party cares about them the most, according to a September recommendations report d’Equis – and this effect is more pronounced among Spanish-dominant speakers. Slightly lower proportions are still undecided about which candidate they will support in Pennsylvania, Texas and North Carolina, according to the report.

Spanish-dominated voters also expressed less motivation to vote than English-dominated voters, although they were still more likely to support Democratic candidates, according to a July UnidosUS Poll. The smaller Spanish-dominated portion of the Latino electorate still makes up a notable percentage in states where Republicans and Democrats aim to gain ground, such as Arizona and Texas. And engaging Spanish-majority voters means appealing to people willing to engage in the democratic process, Cid said.

Democrats have generally spent more than Republicans on Spanish-language media in previous election cycles, though Republicans have made gains in some areas led by South Florida and South Texas. While a majority of Latino voters still favor Democrats in 2020 and in recent polls, the move was enough to convince some Republican groups that hadn’t previously invested in Hispanic outreach to do so for the first time.

Club for Growth Action launched a major Spanish-language ad buy in Nevada last week, targeting Cortez Masto — the nation’s first Latino senator — on the issue of crime, echoing similar attacks from other Republican groups in Nevada and in other major Senate races. The incumbent Democrat “praised radicals associated with ‘defunding the police,'” the ad notes in Spanish, with the phrase “defund the police” still in English. The group plans to fight inflation in a second ad in Spanish, Club for Growth president David McIntosh tells POLITICO, and will spend a total of around $2.5 million by Election Day .

This was the super PAC’s first Spanish-language ad buy. The nonprofit 501(c)(4) arm of the Club for Growth first ran ads in Spanish earlier this year focused on the Supreme Court, criticizing Biden’s promise to appoint a black woman to the highest office. senior judiciary, highlighting qualified Hispanic judges and accusing the president of “radical racial politics.”

“I watched the last election and the Supreme Court nomination that Biden made. The Democrats basically sent a signal to Latinos that they were a Democratic coalition son-in-law and that Biden was only going to promote black people in power,” McIntosh said. “It gave me the idea to ‘Let’s check and see if Latino voters are ready to enter the Republican coalition’.”

Even with the big PAC buy, Democrats still have a financial edge over Spanish-language media in Nevada, having spent nearly $8 million on the Senate race so far this year, up from $1.7 million. dollars for Republicans. Democrats have also put forth more resources in other races, including spending more than $200,000 on Spanish-language radio ads in Pennsylvania to boost John Fetterman.

The exception: Florida, where Republican Sen. Marco Rubio lavishly spent his Democratic challenger Val Demings on the Spanish-speaking media.

Although efforts across the country this year have been stronger and earlier than previous cycles, said Cid of Equis Research, only the results will show whether advertising in Spanish has had any impact with Latino voters.

“I think more will always have to be done, and it’s still not enough,” she said. “This can be a learning lesson for the next cycle… We won’t know until Election Day whether these efforts are manifesting in a way that will satisfy us.”


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