As we enter one of the most contested election cycles in recent memory, one thing that all pundits can agree upon is that the road to the White House begins and ends with the Latino vote.
At our recent Leading the Change marketing forum, we invited political operatives from both sides of the aisle to bare all on the election cycle so far and what we can expect in 2016.
On the right, we were joined by Phil Cox, former executive director of the Republican Governors’ Association and Founding Partner in political consultancy 50-State, and Ruth Guerra, Director of Hispanic Media for the Republican National Committee. Their sparring partners on the left were Colm O’Comartun, former executive director of the Democratic Governors’ Association and the other Founding Partner in 50-State, and Randy Borntrager, Political Director for People for the American Way, the progressive political advocacy group.
I moderated this passionate discussion and as the four got to the heart of the issues, a few important themes stood out to me as we enter the Primary Season:
- Get in Front of Hispanic Voters Early and Often: For Guerra and the RNC, 2013 and 2014 were pivotal years for setting up the infrastructure for their Hispanic effort: “Knowing that 50,000 Hispanics turn 18 every month, it’s math,” she said, “We recruited, hired and trained Hispanic staffers across 11 states…[who’ve] continued to engage the community on a daily basis, continuing to build relationships at the local and state level,” said Guerra. Cox added that this strategy has already proven successful with Governor Rick Scott’s election in Florida: “[Scott] made a commitment, an early commitment, and a consistent, deep commitment to communicate to Hispanic voters,” and ultimately won by 60-70,000 votes, Cox said.
- Hispanics are Persuadable Voters: “The key swing voting bloc in this election is a Hispanic vote,” Cox reminded us. But correcting common misconceptions about their voting habits could really affect the outcome in 2016: “Some Democrats think Latinos are naturally democratic, and they’re not. We know that…Hispanics are available to be Republican,” O’Comartun weighed in. Given that our next president will need at least 45% of the Latino vote to win the White House in 2016, that persuadability is of utmost importance this year.
- The Broader Issues Matter: Addressing another misperception, Borntrager emphasized the need for “candidates that embrace issues that are important to Latinos, and that’s everything from minimum wage to immigration… we don’t need to focus just on immigration.” O’Comartun added: “Latinos need to be talked to about the issues that are important to them, which we see as economics, access to healthcare, taxes… the same as everybody else.”
- Send the Right Message: Corroborating our prior research at Univision regarding political advertising in Spanish, O’Comartun asserted: “Latinos like to be talked to in a more positive way.” And the right message includes consideration of what language will resonate: “When you look at North Carolina in 2012, that was the one state where Romney made a commitment to Spanish-language television, the one state where Romney did it in 2012 and Obama did not. Romney won. Flipside is you see what the Obama team did in Florida in 2012… Romney was nowhere to be found on Spanish-language…. And they lost.”
From local to national elections, these best practices in understanding and reaching Hispanic voters will be integral to political success for candidates this cycle. Find out more on our Hispanic Vote site.