Republicans Alienate Nevada Latinos With Immigration Ads

Illegal immigration has popped up as an issue in campaign ads, with Republicans and even the occasional Democrat using it to charge their rivals with being sympathetic to law breakers.

But the issue, which can work to energize voters, especially conservatives in jurisdictions with relatively few immigrants, appears to be boomeranging in at least one place with many immigrants - Nevada.

Republican Senate nominee Sharron Angle has run a controversial ad with black-and-white video of people with backpacks depicted as illegally entering the country along a border fence. Her point: that Democrat Sen. Harry Reid has been the "best friend" those who entered the U.S. illegally could have.

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NPR's Michel Martin, host of Tell Me More, asked two experts on Latino voters about the ad.

Both Matt Barretto, an associate professor of political science at the University of Washington, and Lionel Sosa, a media consultant who's made campaign ads for Republican clients, including presidents, said it was backfiring on Angle.

BARETTO: ... It's not effective and the reason it's not effective in Nevada is that it will alienate and upset the Hispanic electorate in Nevada, which is about 14 percent of the voters and may cause the election to swing in favor of Reid.

SOSA: I agree with Dr. Barretto. This is not going to work for Sharron Angle in Nevada. Because of the Las Vegas industry that employs a lot of immigrants, there are just a whole lot of people here who are going to be really turned off by this ad. And this election is getting so close that it may well be decided by the Latino vote. Now if you alienate, as she has, that's a very, very bad strategy.

Angle was clearly trying to fire up her base of conservatives by using the issue.

But her gain with those voters may be more than offset by energized Latino electorate that may turn out in larger numbers than it might have otherwise to oppose her.

What's more, by playing the illegal-immigration card, she arguably has allowed the unpopular Reid to keep the race closer than it might have been otherwise.

Adding to the blowback from Angle's ad was the announcement by a Republican activist on Monday of a Spanish-language ad he hoped to run. It urges Latino voters to not cast ballots at all to protest Democrats' inability to deliver on their promises to Hispanics.

Since the majority of Nevada's Latinos are Democrats, it looked like a case of voter suppression to some.

Roll Call reports:

Under pressure from Hispanic leaders, Univision TV announced Tuesday that it would not run the ad. Telemundo told the Associated Press that it would not broadcast the TV spot if approached.

Almost every local newscast in both Las Vegas and Reno has prominently followed the two stories in recent days, and Spanish-language outlets have similarly beat the drum, with stories running locally and nationally on Univision and Telemundo, as well as on Hispanic talk radio. Hispanic leaders in Nevada held a news conference Monday evening denouncing the GOP-sponsored ad, which helped to spur news coverage.

Though he's a media consultant who's worked for Republican candidates, Sosa told Michel he wouldn't have run the ad either.

SOSA: Absolutely not. That is something for the voter to decide on their own.

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