Lagging support among Hispanic voters for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and congressional candidates in crucial races has stoked deep concern that the party and the presidential campaign are doing too little to galvanize a key constituency.
While Clinton holds a significant lead over Republican rival Donald Trump in every poll of Hispanic voters, less clear is whether these voters will turn out in numbers that Democrats are counting on to win. Clinton trails President Obama’s 2012 performance in several Latino-rich states, including Florida, Nevada, Colorado and Arizona. In those same states, on which Democrats’ prospects of retaking the Senate hinge, some down-ballot Democrats remain unknown to many Hispanic voters.
That reality has prompted a flurry of criticism of Clinton’s and the party’s Hispanic strategies. Despite a uniquely favorable environment with Trump’s repeated attacks on undocumented immigrants, Democrats are increasingly worried that the opportunity is slipping away to meet a long-standing party goal of marshaling the nation’s growing Hispanic population into a permanent electoral force. The concerns are compounded by Trump’s recent surge in several battleground states.
“We’re not seeing the Democratic Party take advantage of this moment in time, really looking to leverage more engagement in a more strategic way with our community,” said Janet Murguia, president of the National Council of La Raza.
One top criticism is that Clinton waited until this month to launch a sustained campaign of traditional, Spanish-language ads in key markets. Previously, the campaign’s Hispanic strategy centered on reaching millennial voters through new media such as Facebook and YouTube. Its television outreach was produced primarily in English and aimed at bilingual households. According to critics, Clinton missed a chance to deploy a broader effort to target the Hispanic electorate such as the one that Obama pioneered four years ago.
“This approach may end up being vindicated on Election Day,” said Fernand Amandi, a veteran strategist who led Obama’s research, messaging and paid media operation for the Hispanic vote in 2012. “I just find it to be more risky than replicating what we know worked, which is the sustained approach that the Obama campaign put in place.”
Clinton aides and her allies insist that they are facing a very different opponent than Obama’s, along with new challenges posed by a Hispanic electorate that grows younger and less reliant on traditional modes of communication with each passing cycle.
The dispute goes to the heart of a debate among Hispanic operatives about how much emphasis should be placed on newer ways of reaching younger Hispanics, who like millennials overall are more resistant to backing Clinton than older Latinos.
“A lot of it has evolved to include outreach that isn’t obvious to people who are used to doing it old school,” said veteran Democratic strategist Maria Cardona. “The Clinton campaign and the DNC are very strategically focused on Latino millennials.”
Much of the upset is also focused on down-ballot House and Senate races. Even Clinton has said any hope that Democrats can retake majorities rests on Hispanic turnout. Yet neither the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee nor the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee employ Hispanic outreach coordinators, according to Albert Morales, who held that job until March for the Democratic National Committee.
SOURCE: Abby Phillip and Ed O’Keefe
The Washington Post