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Democrats try out their Spanish on TV as they court Latino voters

Democrats try out their Spanish on TV as they court Latino voters

Democratic presidential candidates, including Kamala Harris, are appearing on more Spanish-language media networks. | Scott Olson/Getty Images 2020 Elections Democrats try out their Spanish on TV as they court Latino voters White House contenders are using Spanish-language television to introduce themselves to a voting demographic that largely has no clue who they are. By MICHAEL…


Kamala Harris

Democratic presidential candidates, including Kamala Harris, are appearing on more Spanish-language media networks. | Scott Olson/Getty Images

2020 Elections

Democrats try out their Spanish on TV as they court Latino voters

White House contenders are using Spanish-language television to introduce themselves to a voting demographic that largely has no clue who they are.

Sen. Kamala Harris stopped by the set of Univision’s “Despierta América” on the morning before the first Democratic debate in Miami to rip President Donald Trump’s policies at the border, talk about her family and do a little cooking.

Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro appeared on the same cookingsegment Monday. Sen. Cory Booker called into the Univision morning show on the day he announced his candidacy, making his pitch to voters in Spanish, and he, Castro and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg have talked over tacoswith Univision correspondent Enrique Acevedo.

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Democratic contenders are using Spanish-language television to introduce themselves to a voting demographic that will be crucial to deciding the party’s nominee for 2020 — and that largely has no clue who they are.

Castro ranked third in a Univision poll of eligible Hispanic voters released Tuesday, with former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders — the two candidates with the most name recognition — leading. The other contenders, according to Lourdes Torres, Univision’s senior vice president for political coverage & special projects, “virtually are not known” to the network’s audience.

That could be a problem for Democratic presidential hopefuls. Latino voters are a key constituency in the primary and likely the largest racial or ethnic minority in the electorate in 2020, according to the Pew Research Center. Hillary Clinton’s performance was weaker than expected with Latinos in 2016, and it might have helped cost her the state of Florida.

@JulianCastro pic.twitter.com/roQoCxT5Cl— Despierta América (@despiertamerica) June 24, 2019

Just 55 percent of Hispanics eligible to vote say Democrats are doing a good job communicating with them, Univision found. Though Trump and the Republicans fared worse, at 22 percent, the poll also indicated that large chunks of potential voters had either no opinion of or didn’t know many of the Democrats.

“The future of the United States is directly linked to the future of Latinos,” Cesar Conde, chairman of NBCUniversal International Group and NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises, said in an interview with POLITICO. He added that “any candidate to reach the White House is going to have to speak to the Latino community.”

Republicans and Democrats have emphasized Latino voters in previous election cycles. White House hopefuls such as Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush gave interviews to Spanish-language networks, and Hillary Clinton appeared on both Telemundo and Univision.

But Democrats’ decision to have Telemundo broadcast thedebates in Miami with NBC and MSNBConWednesday and Thursday — the first time a Spanish-language network is co-hosting the first debate of an election cycle — shows a heightened emphasis on these platforms.

Trump, who re-launched his 2020 campaign in Orlando and intends to compete aggressively in Florida, last week gave the first sit-down interview with a Spanish-language outlet of his presidency. He told “Noticias Telemundo” anchor and debate moderator José Díaz-Balart that his immigration policies will appeal to Hispanic voters.

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That came after years of either largely avoiding this media sector or being openly hostile to it. Early in his candidacy, Trump infamously ejected Univision anchor Jorge Ramos ejected from a news conference.

Torres said it was difficult to get access to Republican presidential candidates in 2016 and noted that Univision didn’t land a primary debate. Univision teamed up with CNN for a 2016 Democratic debate and will partner with ABC News for the third 2020 Democratic contest in September.

“There really is a big difference in terms of access” between the Democratic and Republican parties, said Torres. She said many 2020 Democratic candidates have also been more accessible than Clinton was four years ago.

That’s particularly true of the candidates who are struggling in polls and crave attention, such as Castro and Booker, who are also more likely to give interviews to English-language outlets than the frontrunners. Torres said the Biden campaign had been resistant to the candidate appearing on Univision; he so far has not spoken to a Spanish-language program.

Vanessa Valdivia, the Booker campaign’s deputy press secretary for Spanish-language media, stressed in an interview that outlets like Univision and Telemundo aren’t considered “second-tier” outlets but a key part of their broader media strategy.

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