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Kasey El-Chayeb

Barack Obama’s advertising efforts stood out during his 2008 campaign for the presidency. In addition to setting record ad sales, the “Campaign for Change” spent approximately $20 million on Latino outreach efforts (Abrajano, p.147). His campaign incorporated multiple efforts to court Latino voters, including advertising on the leading Spanish language network, Univision. According to ABC News, “Obama won 67 percent of the Latino vote in 2008. Most independent analysts say the Republican nominee will need to get around 40 percent of Latino voters in 2012 to win the election.” With the release of several new Spanish language ads in the 2012 campaign, it’s clear the Obama campaign is determined to hold on to those supporters and is on track to doing do. A Quinnipiac University National Poll released on April 19th  reported that President Obama holds a 64-24 percent lead over Romney among Hispanic voters.

Abrajano’s book, Campaigning to the New American Electorate: Advertising to Latino Voters, documents and studies the advertising efforts of both the Obama and McCain 2008 campaigns toward Latino voters. It’s important to note the difference between the 2008 strategies Abrajano describes and the updated 2012 strategies. In 2008, Obama produced three Spanish–language ads for Super Tuesday. These ads, called “Hope”, “El Nos Entiende”, and “Gutierrez”, each featured a Latino supporter talking about what they have in common with Obama, such as shared minority status or concern over immigration reform. During this time, independent videos made by Latino supporters contributed to the campaign by gaining popularity on YouTube. Also, in the final days of campaigning, Obama aired a 30 minute infomercial on Univision, a key component in reaching Spanish viewers. McCain used some similar tactics in his advertisements by emphasizing “his service in the military as a common thread between him and many Latinos who served in the armed forces (Abrajano, p.154).” Focusing on commonalities and employing identification theory was a key component in this wave of advertisements from both camps.

Fast forward to this year’s advertisements, which will air in battleground states Nevada, Colorado and Florida (ABC News). An interesting difference between 2012 Latino ads and the 2008 ads is an added focus on policy. It is likely that Obama strategists have realized that the commonalities between Latinos and Obama have already been fleshed out and may be well known by now. An added focus on policy could also serve to strengthen the connection Obama has with Latino voters who have questioned his stances on issues central to the Latino community. The new ads specifically focus on Obama’s record on economic and education policies. The campaign is also attempting to emphasize that Latinos for Obama is the largest ever national effort to communicate with Latinos. “Estamos Unidos” (we are united) will be the new national Spanish campaign slogan.

Despite some changes in Latino outreach, one message has largely remained the same. The Obama campaign has held on to an emphasis on Latino voter turnout, underlining the importance of this group throughout both campaigns.  “Just think how powerful you could be on November 4th if you transfer your numbers into votes (Abrajano, p.154).” Obama shared this message at a National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference Speech.  He has repeatedly focused on communicating this point and expressing that Latinos are important to him, and his campaign. I think this message will prove to be extremely effective in helping Obama gain support from Latinos.

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