How McCain, Obama Approach The Latino Vote A record number of Latinos are becoming U.S. citizens these days, which may lead to a record Latino vote in November. How are the two campaigns focusing on the constituency? What do Latinos want to hear from the candidates?
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How McCain, Obama Approach The Latino Vote

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How McCain, Obama Approach The Latino Vote

How McCain, Obama Approach The Latino Vote

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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In Texas and elsewhere, a record number of Latinos registered to vote since the last presidential election, both the Obama and McCain campaigns are strategizing about how to get them. KQED's Rob Schmitz reports on what each campaign is trying to do.

ROB SCHMITZ: Throughout the country, new Latino voters have questions. They're answered here.

(Soundbite of Latino man talking)

SCHMITZ: Inside an office building in Los Angeles, volunteers sit around a huge conference table and answer calls to 1-888-Ve-Y-Vota, a national toll-free number that in Spanish spells out, "Go and vote". Operators help Spanish speakers with the logistics of registering to vote. Efrain Escobedo of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials or NALEO manages the hotline.

Mr. EFRAIN ESCOBEDO (Manager, National Association of Latino Elected Officials): We're averaging about 150 calls a day. We expected as get closer to the election, we'll be fielding probably up to 600, 700 calls a day. And on Election Day, probably as many as 10 thousand phone calls.

SCHMITZ: This voter registration effort is a joint enterprise between NALEO and the media. The Spanish language television giant Univision has paired up with ImpreMedia, the largest Hispanic print news organization which owns La Vignon(ph)(unintelligible).

Unidentified Woman: (Through Translator) This concerted effort has helped 13 million Latinos registered to vote in the U.S. The majority of which are expected to turn out on election day. NALEO's Escobedo is thrilled, but there's something that worries him. He says many of this new voters call and ask the same question. A question that as a non-partisan organization, his operators can't answer.

Mr. ESCOBEDO: Folks actually calling will say who are we voting for. While campaigns are talking about targeting the Latino vote, the calls suggest that there's not much communication going on.

SCHMITZ: The Obama campaign hopes to change that. It claims it's dedicated $20 million to Latino outreach. The campaign's focusing on four key battleground states, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Florida. All of them voted Republican in the last election. Daniel Figueroa(ph) is spearheading the outreach. He figures, if Obama could just win two of the battleground states this time around, he'll be president.

Mr. DANIEL FIGUEROA (Latino Voter): The only way you win in a battleground state is when people from the community are talking to people from the community.

SCHMITZ: Ana Navarro is the Latino Outreach coordinator for the John McCain campaign and she is not impressed.

Ms. ANA NAVARRO (Latino Outreach Coordinator, John McCain Campaign): Barack Obama needs to spend $20 million because he's a stranger to the Latino community.

SCHMITZ: Navarro says, McCain's long record as senator of the border state means he's well-known by Latinos. But a recent poll shows Latinos favoring Obama three to one.

Unidentified Woman: Registered to vote today.

SCHMITZ: Outside a naturalization ceremony in downtown L.A. where 18,000 immigrants just became U.S. Citizens, volunteers from both parties registering new voters. While only a few linger around the McCain table, the Obama table is packed. Jesus Godinez helps his wife register as a Democrat. Godinez has been a citizen for eight years. And in the last election he voted for Bush, but now he's changing parties.

Mr. JESUS GODINEZ (Latino Voter): (Through Translator): I haven't been satisfied with the way Bush's governed the country. What's not right is how long this war has lasted. The U.S. is too strong of a superpower for a war to last this long.

SCHMITZ: A poll released this month by the Pew Hispanic Trust indicates just how steep a hill the McCain campaign must climb. When Latinos were asked which political party has more concern for Hispanics, 49 percent shows Democrats, while just seven percent named the Republican Party. For NPR News, I'm Rob Schmitz in Los Angeles.

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