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May 3, 2004
LA Times: Kerry Losing Ground With Latinos

The Los Angeles Times reports that the Kerry campaign has stumbled significantly in its strategy towards the Latino community in four key states, allowing the Bush campaign to get far ahead of them. In Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, and Florida, the Bush campaign has already built networks of precinct staffs and regional management to court Latino voters, while Kerry has none in any of these states:

In each of the ... battleground states where the Latino vote is pivotal Arizona, [New Mexico], Nevada and Florida the same is true: Bush has staff and headquarters; Kerry does not. Bush also has run television ads in Spanish in each of those states; Kerry has not.

Kerry's slow start in appealing to Latinos has complicated his quest to keep Bush from making inroads with a voting bloc that's expected to play a key role this year in determining who wins the White House, according to Democratic strategists and Latino backers of Kerry.

"It's like being in a foot race, and the other guy gets a 20-yard head start," said Armando Gutierrez, an Albuquerque consultant who produced ads in Spanish for the Al Gore and Bill Clinton presidential campaigns.

The LA Times takes care to get quotes from several Latino volunteers in Kerry's campaign, but the lack of Latino leadership in Kerry's inner circle gives pause to their community and underscores the notion that Kerry doesn't take them seriously. They're not keeping quiet about it, either:

For all the activities of the outside groups, Latino leaders warned that Kerry should not depend on those groups to shore up his campaign.

Raul Yzaguirre, president of National Council of La Raza, one of the country's biggest Latino groups, also expressed concern that there were no Latinos in Kerry's inner circle of advisors.

"It not only bothers me, I think it's not smart," Yzaguirre said. "It's not intelligent politics."

He said Kerry had done "little to nothing" to court Latinos since defeating his Democratic primary rivals. Clinton and Gore, he said, "showed more sensitivity at this stage than Sen. Kerry has so far."

Bush has zero chance at winning La Raza's endorsement, of course, but La Raza represents more of the leftist part of the Latino community, the less-fanatical MEChA people who may not support El Plan de Aztlan and the conversion of the American southwest to Mexico. When La Raza comes out and speaks poorly of Democratic efforts, it signals a big potential problem for them in the general election. If mainstream but leftist groups like La Raza aren't enthusiastically engaged in the process, the message will get out, and there will be a lot of people staying home or voting for someone else in November. The problem for the Democrats is the former option, as stay-at-homes affect the entire ballot and not just the presidential race.

Kerry's campaigning liabilities continue to come to the fore as this campaign rolls along, and so far the Democrats seem a bit nonplussed that he's emerged as the nominee. Normally the party would take charge of a debacle like this, but with Terry McAuliffe running things at the DNC, they may have trouble deciding which debacle needs more attention. If the elections turns out to be a close one, the Democrats will regret the time they lost in these states and the head start they gave the Bush campaign.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 3, 2004 6:04 AM

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