Romney vs. Obama in Spanish – Battling TV Ads Aimed at Latino Voters in Key States

Obama Spanish Language ad

A Spanish language ad from the Obama campaign targeting Latino voters.

President Obama’s supporters have started attacking the Romney campaign en espanol. The pro-Obama Priorities USA Action super PAC teamed up with the Service Employees International Union to create a TV ad that aims to turn Mitt Romney’s own words against him when it comes to poor and working class Latino Americans.

The ad is in Spanish, except for the parts with Mitt sticking his pata in his boca. You see a Latino man watching an interview with Romney in which the candidate jokes about being unemployed. The Latino man is not amused. A Latina woman reacts to Romney’s claim that he isn’t interested in helping the poor.  It’s like those YouTube videos of people looking at gross viral videos; their reaction is more interesting than the original video.

The pro-Obama ad is the latest volley in a war of videos—viral and broadcast—aimed at winning the hearts and votes of American Latinos.  The TV ads are running in states where the Latino vote could be the deciding factor in the election.

The Romney campaign released their own video that is airing in the battleground state of Florida, mainly focusing on jobs.  Using both Spanish and English, the ad claims that Obama’s economic record with Latinos is “dismal” and that Latinos have gotten poorer since he took office. The ad shows pictures of Latinos looking forlorn.

Those mopey Latinos are light skinned and look more Cuban or Puerto Rican than Mexican. It seems that the Romney campaign is using this ad to appeal to the powerful Latino voting bloc in South Florida.  Underneath the pictures, depressing economic statistics from various think tanks and polls flash on the screen.

The ads that have come directly from the Obama campaign, on the other hand, tend to be more upbeat. This may be a reflection of the president’s overwhelming support among Latinos. Obama’s ads tend to talk more about the immigrant Horatio Alger-type narrative of hard work and making it in America. In one Nevada ad a Mexican-American immigrant discusses how his mother came to this country to give him the opportunities she never had. Unlike Romney’s Florida ad that depicts light-skinned Latinos, the people in the Nevada ad are clearly Mexican-American. Both campaigns are clearly aware of Latino regionalism in their efforts to appeal to voters.

One issue is conspicuously absent from the ads from both camps: immigration reform. Though Latinos, like most Americans, are most concerned with the economy and jobs, immigration is still an important issue for them. But it appears Romney doesn’t want to remind Latinos about his strident anti-immigration message during the GOP primaries. Maybe he’s hoping Latino voters will experience short-term memory loss?

Obama also has reasons to avoid the issue. During his 2008 campaign Obama promised immigration reform that never happened.  After Congress’s failure to pass the DREAM Act, the president has ignored those who have urged him to use his executive authority to help DREAM Act-eligible youth.  Not to mention the fact that a record 400,000 undocumented immigrants have been deported every year on average since he took office.

Of course, both candidates have it completely wrong. These kinds of ads might work for white folks in Kansas but not for American Latinos. Romney and Obama should watch more Spanish language TV and emulate what they see—like telenovelas, for example. These melodramas are by far the most popular programming on Spanish TV. From 6pm to 9pm, hundreds of thousands of people from all classes, countries, and political persuasions tune in to watch the hair pulling and overacting on these shows. So if they really want to reach the Latino voter, it only makes sense that politicians should produce telenovelas.

Mitt’s show could be the typical, “the complicated lives of rich people” genre of telenovela. He wouldn’t even need to act! Mitt would play a wealthy industrialist who is battling an evil rival (which is just Mitt with a beard and an eye patch). They’d both fight for the affections of Ann Romney, a vision in soft focus and flattering lighting. Marco Rubio could make a cameo in shorts and a beanie propeller and he could play Mitt’s 7 year old son…or is it evil Mitt’s son?! We’d call this ad, “Las Pasiones de Mitt”.

I think Obama would do well with one of the “period piece” telenovelas. Michelle would play the daughter of a rich land owner in colonial Veracruz and Barack a man who was wrongly accused of murder. Barack would become a pirate—the kind with a heart of gold—and there would be a lot of bodice ripping and swashbuckling. Joe Biden could play his simpleton peasant sidekick (I know, it’s a stretch). We’d call the ad, “El Presidente Pirata.”

Now those are the kinds of ads that Latinos could really relate to.

Fi2W is supported by the New York Community Trust and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation with additional support from the Ralph E. Odgen Foundation and the Sirus Fund.

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