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Lessons We Can Learn From The Candidates – How To Reach Hispanics
July 16, 2012

With more than 21 million registered voters, Hispanics represent almost 10 percent of the total population registered to vote. It’s important the presidential candidates reach this critical segment because federal decisions about healthcare and immigration will impact Hispanics more profoundly than just about any other segment of the population. Wherever the candidate stands on these issues and how well they communicate it to Hispanics will greatly influence whether they get the Hispanic vote, and possibly, the presidency.

A recent Gallup Poll has Obama with a two-to-one lead over Romney in his support from Hispanics and it’s not hard to see why. I’ve been advising U.S. firms how to reach Hispanic audiences for more than 20 years. This summer, I have been watching the presidential campaign closely and have rendered an assessment for both candidates.

Here’s a peek into why Obama is doing better, with a list of my six best ways to reach this influential audience and how each candidate is doing in that effort.

6. Use mobile phone apps and texting to reach the 18-30 year olds. Use English.

  • Obama – He scores an “A.” Obama’s sites are optimized for mobile phones. He has an official mobile app for Hispanics. Has a texting campaign: Unidos.
  • Romney scores a “C.” Romney has a mobile optimized website. Some SMS texting. No mobile app.

5. Use influential celebrities to reach women over 50.

  • Obama – Obama gets an “A+” for releasing a series of 30-second TV ads featuring the “Spanish Oprah” Cristina Saralegui. He could not have picked a better celebrity.
  • Romney – Romney gets a “C” for obtaining an endorsement from Florida Senator Marc Rubio. Yes he is Hispanic, however, according to Massachusetts State Representative Jeffrey Sanchez, most Hispanics don’t even know who Rubio is. As a hard line Republican, he may not give the Hispanic voters the warm fuzzies Romney needs.

4. Use the American Dream as a central theme – it’s still the most powerful force drawing Hispanics to settle here.

  • Obama – Obama gets an “A+” for directly using the American Dream phrase in its Spanish-language TV ads through the context of immigration and education. As a child of an immigrant himself, his sensitivity and compassion to their plight comes through in his speeches naturally and with sincerity.
  • Romney – Romney gets a “B” He has promised to focus on jobs for Hispanics, however, he has tread too lightly on American Dream phrasing, possibly due to its connection to immigration. He gets points for his latest ad featuring his son speaking fluent Spanish about another theme central to the Hispanic culture, family.

3. Use Hispanic TV and Radio to reach Hispanics in America. Univision and Jorge Ramos are considered the single most influential media outlet and news personality among Hispanics in America.

  • Obama – Obama gets a “B” for his efforts. Although he is outspending his opponent with nearly $3 million of his $100 million in TV and radio ads on Spanish language ads like “Estamos Unidos” in key Hispanic states of OH, CO, FL, and NV, Obama crossed a line in using Jorge Ramos’ image in some ads without his permission. Arguably the most influential celebrity in the Hispanic American culture, Ramos retains a fiercely independent stance on the campaign and refuses to make an endorsement. He was not at all happy with the Obama campaign for the misstep.
  • Romney – Romney gets a “C”. As of early July, Romney had spent only almost $500K on TV ads like “Juntos Con Mitt” in NC and OH, and on radio ads “Unidos Con Mitt” in AZ, CA, FL and NV. Most recently however, his son has been featured speaking fluent Spanish in a series of ads, with messaging about family. It’s a really smart move for Romney, but it’s unclear yet whether this will have the necessary impact for the candidate that he needs.

2. Focus on access to affordable healthcare and/or messaging about health. Hispanics are the single largest segment of the population without access to affordable healthcare and some of the most prone to diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease.

  • Obama – Obama gets an “A+” for a healthcare law that provides access to affordable healthcare for all Americans.
  • Romney – Romney gets a “D” for opposing Obama’s plan, for planning to repeal it, and for flip-flopping on the topic altogether. It has been reported that Obama’s plan was the same plan Romney modeled the Massachusetts healthcare law from when he was governor there.

1. Focus on immigration reform that balances security with humanity.

  • Obama – Obama’s recent executive order to forgive children of immigrants who came to the states illegally earns him an “A+” as it shows his compassion and focus on smart, effective reforms.
  • Romney – Romney gets an “F” here, for wavering frequently on how he plans to address immigration reform. He’s historically been a staunch opponent of Obama’s Dream Act though the popularity of the president’s Executive Order has caused Romney to back off. He is losing not only Hispanics with this lack of clarity, but members of his own party.
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