By Brian DeBose
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
A Democratic outreach group, sensing that the party's support among Hispanics is soft, has begun a new ad campaign that it hopes will bring back and secure Spanish-speaking voters in the November elections.
The New Democrat Network (NDN) introduced an ad yesterday to be aired on Spanish-language radio and TV stations touting the record of Democratic presidents including Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. New Democrats said the ads are designed to show how Democratic values connect with the Hispanic community.
"Latinos who have recently become citizens may not be aware of all Democrats have done to fight for good jobs, quality schools, health care, and to give them the tools they need to have a better life," said Maria T. Cardona, director of the NDN's Hispanic Project.
The new ads will begin running on both radio and TV this week in Albuquerque, N.M.; Las Vegas; Phoenix; and Orlando and Tampa, Fla. The radio version of the ad also will air in Miami and in Yuma, Ariz.
"In this country's history, Democrats have always fought for peace and prosperity for all. Democrats like President Roosevelt, who was the hero of World War II; President Kennedy, who returned hope to a nation .. President Carter, who fought for human rights in Latin America, and President Clinton who engineered the largest economic prosperity in half a century," reads the full text of the English version of the ad.
The Washington Times reported in February that Miss Cardona, the Democrats' leading authority on Hispanic outreach, had issued a strategy memo to her party detailing what she called a "monumental sea change" in the Hispanic vote over the past 15 years.
President Bush was able to attract 35 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2000 against Democrat Al Gore's 62 percent, which Miss Cardona characterized as a poor showing considering Hispanic support in previous elections.
Mr. Bush, who had served as Texas governor, made it clear his intentions to make inroads for his party into the Hispanic community. The Bush campaign has already begun its Spanish-language ads for this cycle, "and I think it's safe to say you'll see more," said one Bush campaign official.
"The Latino vote is no longer a hub for Democrats ... and [likely Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John] Kerry has a very thin record with Latinos," the official said.
Hispanics accounted for about 6 percent of the vote in 2000 and are expected to make up about 9 percent this year.
The New Democrat Network, founded in 1996, is dedicated to expanding the voter base for Democrats. The new ads are part of its Hispanic Project, which the group began in 2002 to connect Democrats with the Hispanic community.
The next step for the group is to target Miami, the largest and most affluent Hispanic community in the country in a state where Miss Cardona said Democrats need to win to retake the presidency in 2004.
"Miami is one of the fastest-growing Hispanic immigrant cities in the U.S. If NDN's goal is to communicate directly with all Hispanics in this important community, Miami has to be one of our priorities," Miss Cardona said.