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Candidates Spending More To Woo Hispanic Voters

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This year, 3-5% of total TV dollars could fund Spanish-language ads

Politicians have generally not considered Hispanics to be a big enough—or mobilized enough—slice of the voting pie to target them separately with Spanish-language TV spots. That is starting to change.

As the number of Hispanics has grown in four critical swing states—Arizona, Florida, Nevada and New Mexico—the national political parties and special-interest groups are devoting a greater share of ad dollars to wooing them. "Given the increasing importance of the Hispanic vote in this election, we anticipate 3-5 percent of political dollars spent [nationwide] will target Hispanics," said Manny Machado, president of the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies.

In 2002, Spanish-language spots accounted for a then-record $16 million, or 2 percent, of the $700 million spent on political TV ads, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR.

Last week, President Bush's campaign began airing a new 30-second Spanish-language TV spot (its third of the year) and a 60-second Spanish-language radio ad (its first) focusing on education. The spots, from Maverick Media in Dallas, will run in the four swing states. Of Bush's first three TV spots, which broke in March, one also ran in Spanish. "We've started earlier and are devoting more resources to Hispanic issues than we did in 2000," Bush rep Sharon Castillo said. She declined to detail the campaign's spending on Hispanic media.

The Democrats are also doing more. The Democratic National Committee held a conference over the weekend in Orlando to discuss how to best communicate with the Hispanic electorate, and the Kerry campaign has run ads on Spanish-language TV and radio stations. "We will continue to do so between now and November, especially in states with high population of Hispanics, including Florida and Nevada," said Kerry rep Mark Kornblau.

Political-interest groups are involved, too. The New Democrat Network, whose mission includes getting the Democratic agenda out to the Latino community, is spending $150,000 a week in the same four crucial states. "This is the year when both parties are expected to really start reaching out directly [to Hispanics] with paid media," said Maria Cordona, vp and director of NDN's Hispanic project. "We've spent $700,000 since the first week of March."

The upward trend in spending matches rising Hispanic voter turnout. U.S. Census Bureau data shows that during the 2000 presidential election, 79 percent of registered Hispanics voted, close to the 86 percent of non-Hispanics.

Hispanics are also accounting for a greater proportion of total voter turnout. "In the 2000 presidential election, Spanish-language television took only a 1 percent share of the total [$600 million] political TV market, despite [Hispanics representing] over 5 percent of the U.S. voter turnout," said Scott Roskowski, vp of sales and marketing for the Eastern region at Univision, the nation's largest Spanish-language broadcaster.

In some states, that figure is much higher. In New Mexico, some 30 percent of voters this year are expected to be Hispanics. In Arizona, the figure is 15 percent; in Florida, 12 percent.

Of the $80 million spent on political ads in the presidential race during the first quarter of this year, less than 1 percent went to Hispanic media, per TNS Media Intelligence/CMR. But experts said even that is encouraging, because candidates usually wait until later in the election to begin their overtures to Hispanics.

"[Spending] is not where it should be when you contrast that with the [Hispanic] vote that's out there," Machado said. "But it is encouraging, and it will continue to grow."