October 25, 2002 - Florida Capital News: Dominican Republic RPCV Senator Chris Dodd campaigns in Florida to help Democrats with Hispanic vote

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Headlines: Peace Corps Headlines - 2002: 10 October 2002 Peace Corps Headlines: October 25, 2002 - Florida Capital News: Dominican Republic RPCV Senator Chris Dodd campaigns in Florida to help Democrats with Hispanic vote

By Admin1 (admin) on Tuesday, October 29, 2002 - 9:32 pm: Edit Post

Dominican Republic RPCV Senator Chris Dodd campaigns in Florida to help Democrats with Hispanic vote

Read and comment on this story from Florida Capital News on the Hispanic Vote in Florida and how the parties are sending outside campaigners into the state who they think can appeal to and help with the Hispanic vote.

Dodd spent two years in the Dominican Republican some 40 years ago with the Peace Corps and, state Democrats noted, he "is fluent in Spanish." Read the story at:

Candidates court crucial Hispanics as Nov. 5 looms*

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.

Candidates court crucial Hispanics as Nov. 5 looms

By Paige St. John
Gannett News Service

ORLANDO - Bill McBride was supposed to be in friendly territory, opening his Hispanic campaign office on Semoran Boulevard, when the enemy fire came.

Telemundo wanted to know, when was McBride going to run a Spanish-language commercial?

The Democrat squinted in the bright sun as he answered, and smiled, shook hands, exchanged business cards - but he had no date.

"It hurts," acknowledged supporter Bill Oropeza, to the question of McBride's inability in this campaign to speak Spanish.

Three months ago, McBride could hardly fathom winning the gubernatorial primary, let alone what he might need to campaign here, Oropeza said.

"You don't master a second language in three months," he said, "but the message is there."

Three days later, McBride was back on Semoran, accompanied by U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Ct. and former chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Dodd spent two years in the Dominican Republican some 40 years ago with the Peace Corps and, state Democrats noted, he "is fluent in Spanish."

The stump appearance of Dodd, a potential contender for the 2004 Democratic presidential primary, lacked the natural ease with which Florida Republicans already work the state's Hispanic community.

The day after Dodd was in Orlando, Columba Bush was in Miami with New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Antonia Novello, in a heart-to-heart with Latinas, young Hispanic girls, on the dangers of drug abuse.

The Republican Party of Florida had no need to note the first lady's ability to speak their language.

Or to bring a translator for Gov. Jeb Bush when the bilingual governor dropped into Columbus Street, the dead-center of Tampa's Hispanic heart the week before, chatting with another Telemundo reporter - in Spanish.

Latinos make up 16 percent of Florida's population, though only 12 percent of those who voted in November 2000, according to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed

In an election that already is a dead heat and only three weeks until the vote, McBride is just now venturing into the non-Cuban Hispanic community, especially the burgeoning Puerto Rican population between Tampa and Orlando. In the past, it has always been fertile for Democrats.

Al Gore did very well here.

Republicans have barnstormed the fields since.

"Frankly, the first party to establish a beachhead of partisan elected officials in central Florida will be the dominant political party in central Florida for years to come," said Al Cardenas, chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.

"It's probably our number one edge in this gubernatorial campaign," he said. "The incredible numbers the governor is getting (among Hispanic voters) has allowed him to keep the margin that he has. ... The one thing we're proudest of in the campaign and the party is the progress we've made especially in Central Florida with the Hispanic community."

The GOP scored a coup in central Florida when it recruited Rep. Tony Suarez, a Puerto Rican from Winter Park, to change parties and presumably, many of the Hispanic voters who originally elected him. He is now running for the state Senate against Democrat Gary Siplin.

Such inroads are possible, Cardenas said, because the Puerto Rican and other Hispanic communities in central Florida are not so old that they have cemented party ties.

"Central Florida doesn't have, like the Bronx, a political culture established over generations that makes it very hard for someone to penetrate a given group," Cardenas said. "The good news of Florida is, everyone's arrival is pretty recent. Therefore they are less ties to cultural precepts and biases to voting patterns."

In other words, an audience to sway, with voter registration drives, statewide Hispanic radio shows, and with TV.

This election alone, he said, the party has spent more than $1.5 million on its Hispanic efforts.

"If you compare our commitment in terms of resources, in terms of effort, in terms of recruiting, in terms of the message, there's a reason why we're making progress," Cardenas said.

Political researchers at Johns Hopkins University estimate that even a month out from the election, the state GOP had spent more than $745,000 on Spanish-language TV advertising, more than half of it in Miami but also in Orlando and Tampa.

The GOP has thrown another blanket over Spanish-language radio.

One of the spots echoes the party's English-language ads touting Bush's concerns for low-income seniors by expanding drug prescription benefits, and is carried hourly on Radio Mambi, WAQI, in Miami.

It is all party money. The governor himself has spent nothing on Spanish-language commercials, said campaign spokesman Todd Harris.

The Florida Democratic party finally launched a Spanish ad for McBride on Thursday, just 13 days from the election. "Bill McBride siempre ha luchado por las cosas que valen..." the 30-second commercial begins as it touts McBride's legal studies and his Vietnam War decorations. "Bill McBride always has stood for things of value...."

Adam Segal, who did the Spanish-language marketing study for the Journal of American Politics at Johns Hopkins University in Washington, sees a replay of the 2000 presidential dogfight unfolding in Florida -- if McBride can mount an effective Hispanic campaign.

"You've got two effective candidates making appeals to the Puerto Rican community, which is a seen as a community that is less biased toward one party or another and much more willing to accept representation by candidates of either party, that truly represent their interests," Segal said.

Al Gore's campaign and the Democratic National Committee spent almost $70,000 on Spanish-language television in Orlando in 2000. George Bush's operation came close, spending $60,000 on ads with Univision and Telemundo.

"They spent the most amount of money in Orlando than any other media market in the state. That is because their polling and their advisors told them two things were happening: The new immigrant population around Orlando was growing very rapidly, at a quicker rate than any other part of the state.

"They knew it was going to be a very close election. It was likely going to make a difference in the Hispanic community as to who won and lost."

Dodd's visit to central Florida last week is telltale that the state of Florida once again hangs in the balance, Segal said.

"It's no mistake that the first place that a national figure who speaks Spanish with the Democratic national party is going to be in Orlando," he said.

Republicans have paved inroads into the Hispanic community for a decade. Bill Clinton had more than 70 percent of the Latin vote. Gore's share shrank to 65 percent.

The race remains McBride's to lose, Segal said.

"I think there's a lot to be said for the feeling to be gained from someone who speaks fluent Spanish or is able to relate in a very, very personal way in the Hispanic community. However, we have seen that simply speaking Spanish or being Spanish does not necessarily mean winning the Hispanic community," Segal said.

"To me it should be obvious if the McBride campaign had some more time to organize between the primary and the general election, they probably would have had time to develop very serious in-roads.

"What that says to me is if McBride is able to mobilize a very serious grassroots effort within the Puerto Rican and other Hispanic neighborhoods, and is able to compliment that with positive news coverage on Spanish language radio and television, he'll be able to help push himself above that threshold he needs to win.

"But if he doesn't it could cost him dearly."

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