April 7, 2000


OPINION

Latino Vote May Turn on Media Message

By Jerome DeHerrera

For the men and women of the Gore-for-president campaign, there is no rest for the weary. Just days after he was assured of his party's nomination, Vice President Al Gore he was meeting here in Washington and in Nashville with campaign officials to plot his electoral strategy.

Gore has a serious fight ahead of him. He faces a Republican candidate in George W. Bush that will contest Gore for every vote, including the precious votes of the Latino community, in the Nov. 2 election.

Some Latino activists who have worked long and hard for the Democratic Party have been amazed at how slow party leaders have reacted to the threat posed by Bush to the Hispanic vote that has traditionally voted Democratic.

With the nomination now sewn up, Gore must move to shore up the Hispanic vote and try to hold it against a serious Bush assault. In one important area, the Bush camp features a very sophisticated approach: Bush has already retained the services of Lionel Sosa, an extraordinary public relations maestro from San Antonio.

Sosa produced Bush's television ads when he ran for governor and he is credited with bringing Bush a large chunk of the Hispanic vote in Texas. Bush also has a lot of money to run those ads.

But Bush also has a secret weapon: His nephew, George P. Bush, the son of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who married a beautiful woman from Mexico. The nephew, a 20-something with Hollywood good looks, will prove very useful to Sosa.

The brown Bush is already campaigning in traditional Latino Democratic areas, and Sosa will use him as a centerpiece of a concerted appeal to Hispanics.

On this important score, the Democrats are playing catch up, and they risk making a grave error if they do not match the appeal for Gore that Sosa is going to make for Bush using national television advertisements. The days of the Democrats assuming that the Latino vote will be in their column on election night are over.

Throughout the country, we have seen Republicans making plans to make serious overtures to the Latino community that will parallel what Bush did in Texas.

To meet that challenge, the Gore campaign must use every weapon that it has available, including television, radio and the newspaper that cover the Latino community. The Democrats must also enlist the new media, such as sophisticated data bases, polling and voter profiling, if they hope to count on the Latino vote on election night.

If they do not embark on a meaningful media campaign, they might find themselves on the short end of the stick in places where the Latino vote was crucial.

States like California, New York, Texas, Washington, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico are critical to Democratic hopes, and all have significant concentrations of Latino voters.

As the Gore team maps out its strategy for the summer and fall, it will be interesting to see if they are aware of what they must do now before it is too late.

DeHerrera writes a political column from Washington. Please send your comments to Jerome DeHerrera@Yahoo.com.

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