May 30, 2008

Democratic group says Hispanic voters run to Democratic Party

By Christian A. Cheairs
Scripps Howard Foundation Wire

WASHINGTON - Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton’s aggressive campaigns in the Hispanic community are showing positive results. New numbers released by the NDN, a progressive think-tank and advocacy organization, show that Hispanics are embracing the Democratic Party more than ever before.

The data released Wednesday show that Hispanics have voted in record numbers this year, tripling their turnout from the 2004 primaries, and increasing their share of the vote in the Democratic primaries by 66 percent.

The NDN report is based on an analysis of a variety of polls and exit polls conducted during this year’s primary elections.

The NDN report said that of Hispanics who voted in the presidential primaries this year 78 percent voted Democratic.

The NDN, formerly known as the New Democratic Network, credits these numbers to changes in Democratic Party campaign strategy since Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., was the Democratic nominee in 2004.

“The Democratic Party has woken up and gets it. This is why the Republicans should be very worried. I think John Kerry’s campaign was a little bit slow. That is not the case in 2008, the Democrats clearly understand the Hispanics’ relevance,” said Simon Rosenberg, president and founder of NDN.

But a Republican Party official said Republican John McCain has a strong relationship with Hispanics.

“Any results or poll or finding they might have it is going to be beneficial to the Democrats because they are not a neutral organization. These are just political attacks in order to change the subject,” said Heffy Fernandez, director of Hispanic Communications for the Republican National Committee. “Latinos and Senator McCain have had a long relationship ... and share the same conservative principles: national security, fiscal responsibility and traditional values.”

Rosenberg said communicating in Spanish is one of the “greatest strategic priorities” that is occurring in political parties in the 21st century. In 2004, the first fully engaged back-and-forth Spanish language campaigns were launched by both parties.

During this time, President Bush and the GOP were targeting immigrants and relied heavily on Spanish-language advertising. Using this strategy, the Republican Party doubled its popularity with Hispanics, according to exit polls.

Recently, Obama has taken that strategy to the next level in his new ad in Puerto Rico, in which Obama spoke in Spanish. “They are doing it now better than the Republicans. I think this is the first ad ever done ... where the candidate is speaking complete Spanish for a long amount of time,” Rosenberg said.

The NDN report said that the new highly energized and pro-Democratic Hispanic electorate could have an enormous impact on the presidential election.

Andres Ramirez, vice-president for Hispanic Programs for the NDN, said that Clinton’s “aggressive” and “innovative” campaign for the Hispanic community is a part of the energy behind the pro-Democratic Hispanic electorate.

He also addressed concerns that Obama was struggling to gain support from the Hispanic community.

“It was not that Obama was struggling; Hillary was succeeding” he said.

He said she did such a good job in her campaign that she blocked other candidates out. A Gallup Poll done earlier this month of Democrats and voters who lean Democratic found that Obama is gaining support among Hispanics and beating Clinton.

The report also found that McCain is not in a “strong position” because he abandoned his own bill that supported immigration reform.

Rosenberg said that McCain will have to answer for his actions in the general election. “John McCain is facing an uphill battle. This man is a betrayer of the Hispanic community and not a champion. Stay tuned everybody, we are going to have a big battle on our hands,” he said.

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