JEFFREY BROWN: And now to politics and the battle for the growing Hispanic electorate, something both campaigns believe could push them over the top this year.
Ray Suarez has our story.
RAY SUAREZ: The assignment is straightforward, and really hard, getting Latino voters to the polls.
Although Latinos make up the country’s largest minority, about 9 percent of the U.S. electorate, they are younger, poorer, and less educated than other Americans in a country where older, wealthier and better educated people are more likely to vote.
But states critical to both campaigns, Nevada, Colorado, Florida, and here in Virginia, have seen in the last decade large increases in the size of the Hispanic population and Hispanic voter registration. And with just two-and-a-half weeks to go, these states are all close.
In a tight election, these voters could end up providing the winner with the margin of victory.
How do you talk to a population of 50 million people? For one thing, in Spanish and through a variety of channels.
Bettina Inclan is the Republican National Committee’s director of Hispanic outreach.
BETTINA INCLAN, Republican National Committee: There’s a lot of diversity within the Hispanic community with 20-plus different countries, different — differences in generation vs. first generation, third generation.
So having a message that connects with all of them, but it also recognizes a uniqueness and to be culturally aware is incredibly important. I think that’s why a lot of our outreach efforts are so localized.
RAY SUAREZ: In battleground Colorado, that was a Juntos Con Romney, Together with Romney event, headlined by Romney’s youngest son, Craig, who’s been hitting big Hispanic markets to speak on his father’s behalf in two languages.
Gary Segura, a pollster and political science professor at StanfordUniversity, says the Spanish-language outreach demonstrates cultural recognition.
GARY SEGURA, StanfordUniversity: The idea that a candidate would address you in your native language, or if not your native language, the native language of your parents, conveys a level of respect.
It’s part of symbolic politics. It doesn’t have any meaning, but — any policy meaning, per se, but in the minds of the voters, it conveys a sensitivity, an interest in, a willingness to listen to the concerns of a population.
RAY SUAREZ: But for all their attention to getting the word out in Spanish, the campaigns are leaving out a large and obvious constituency, Segura says.
GARY SEGURA: The missed opportunity for both political parties are English-dominant Hispanics. English-dominant Latinos, they also would kind of like to hear something about Latino concerns in the language that they primarily process information in, English.
RAY SUAREZ: Juan Sepulveda is the senior adviser for Hispanic affairs for the Democratic National Committee. He agrees outreach is more nuanced than just Spanish ad buys. His campaign calls itself the first fully bilingual one in history.
All the press releases, tweets, and other media go out in both languages. As an example, on the Spanish-language Web site, they even encourage Web visitors to use this calculator to figure out their tax bills under an Obama administration and a Romney one. That’s the same tool available on the English site.
JUAN SEPULVEDA, Senior Adviser for Hispanic Affairs, Democratic National Committee: Florida is a place that we know, on the voting side, you can do a lot of work in the Spanish media and you will be successful in getting to a majority of our voters.
That’s not the case in Colorado. That’s not the case in Nevada. And in Colorado, the numbers are pushing kind of 80 percent-plus in terms of primarily getting that information from English media.
And then when you look at the differences of ages, we know social media, an explosion there, the different blogs, the different shows. And so we have to be really smart about kind of breaking it down to all those different pieces and making sure that we’re kind of having those conversations in all the different avenues.
And it’s more complicated now.
NARRATOR: What would a Romney presidency be like?
RAY SUAREZ: Segura says getting it right is more complicated still by the fact that some ads aimed at Latinos are simply translations of existing English ads, such as this Romney day one spot.
GARY SEGURA: Your Spanish advertising cannot simply be your English commercials translated into Spanish.
RAY SUAREZ: Why not?
GARY SEGURA: Because the message is different. The message is different. The cultural idiom is different. What a phrase means, whether it resonates with the population is different. That has to be culturally bound.
RAY SUAREZ: Both campaigns have opened the spigots on Spanish- language ad spending this year.
NewsHour partner Kantar Media/CMAG found the Obama campaign has spent close to $8 million for Spanish-language advertising from mid-April until the beginning of this week.
The Romney campaign has spent close to $3 million on its Spanish-language ads during that same period.
On the Obama side, ad makers at the Democratic National Committee are editing testimonial ads, like this one from a Dominican-American vet who cares for her aging parent. The campaign has also brought star power to bear, in English from Mexican-American Eva Longoria, and with Cristina Saralegui, a top-rated talk show host known as the Spanish Oprah.
Currently, Romney’s Spanish-language ads range from celebrating the entrepreneurial spirit in the Hispanic community to blaming President Obama for a huge debt and high Hispanic youth unemployment.
And in the “Ya No Mas,” or “No More,” ad, a wide swathe of Hispanics tell how, although they voted for Obama four years ago, he forgot them and didn’t keep his promises.
In addition to ads, the candidates took another route to reaching some 50 million Hispanics, through interviews with the Spanish-language network Univision.
Immigration was one of the front and center issues. Romney says he wouldn’t deport the dreamers, those young people who came illegally to the U.S. before they turned 16, and after an Obama administration ruling this past summer, no longer face deportation provided they register with the federal government.
MITT ROMNEY (R): I’m not going to be rounding people up and deporting them from the country. We’re going to put in place a permanent solution.
And unlike the president, when I’m president, I will actually do what I promised. I will put in place an immigration reform plan that solves this issue.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
RAY SUAREZ: And Mr. Obama says, despite the DREAM Act changes, immigration is one of the greatest failures of his first term.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I am happy to take responsibility for the fact that we didn’t get it done.
What I promised was that I would work every single day as hard as I can to make sure that everybody in the country would have a fair shot at the American dream. And I have — that promise, I have kept.
RAY SUAREZ: Latino voters are, by definition, citizens of the United States. Yet, Segura says, immigration remains an enduring front-burner issue, even as foreclosures and unemployment in Latino families spiked, and by one estimate, the community lost two-thirds of its household wealth in the recession.
GARY SEGURA: They might have been born in the United States, but their co-worker, their brother-in-law, their neighbor down the street, the identity with immigration is much, much more proximate.
RAY SUAREZ: But Bettina Inclan says the Romney campaign is placing a priority on economic issues as it reaches out to Latinos.
BETTINA INCLAN: And they care about jobs, the American dream and how, under this administration, it’s become a little bit harder to achieve that American dream.
JUAN SEPULVEDA: I think you could get into trouble as a campaign if you only looked at the polling that said, look, they didn’t rank it very high, so it must not be very important.
RAY SUAREZ: Both candidates are making their closing statements.
MITT ROMNEY: This party is the natural home for Hispanic Americans.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MITT ROMNEY: Because this is the party of opportunity and hope.
BARACK OBAMA: We are a nation of strivers and climbers and entrepreneurs, the hardest-working people on Earth. And nobody personifies these American values, these American traits more than the Latino community.
RAY SUAREZ: A PewHispanicCenter report out last week showed Latino voters support the president by a 3-1 margin, but are still less certain than other groups about actually showing up at the polls.
So, although new Latino registration has so far greatly exceeded new registrations among whites, both campaigns are working down to the wire to make sure their supporters will actually cast ballots come Election Day.
JEFFREY BROWN: Ray talked to political editor Christina Bellantoni about states where the Latino vote can affect other races. That’s on the Political Checklist on our home page.
Plus, tonight’s edition of “Need to Know” travels to Florida to see how the campaigns are courting Latinos there.