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Obama and the DNC Target Hispanics in Swing States

This time, there was no hurricane to stop them. John and Cindy McCain visited the Red Ribbon Ranch oil field in Bakersfield, Calif., before a fundraiser at a nearby country club.
This time, there was no hurricane to stop them. John and Cindy McCain visited the Red Ribbon Ranch oil field in Bakersfield, Calif., before a fundraiser at a nearby country club. (By Mary Altaffer -- Associated Press)

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A $20 MILLION PLAN

Obama and the DNC Target Hispanics in Swing States

Barack Obama and the Democratic National Committee are expected to unveil a $20 million investment in Hispanic voter mobilization Tuesday that targets most major battleground states.

DNC Chairman Howard Dean said the sum is unprecedented for a presidential campaign and represents a show of Democratic confidence that Latino voters could prove pivotal in states including New Mexico and Michigan.

Although Republican rival John McCain represents Arizona, a state with a strong Hispanic presence, Dean cited a poll last week by the Pew Hispanic Center showing Obama's approval rating with registered Latino voters at 66 percent nationwide, compared with 23 percent for McCain.

"We need to cement that," Dean said of the Pew lead. "There's enormous potential in the Latino population."

Targets will include Florida; Western states such as Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico; and Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan, industrial battlegrounds with sizable Hispanic populations. The money will be spent on niche advertising and other outreach, along with mobilization efforts aimed at identifying, registering and turning out new Democratic voters.

Over the weekend, the campaign held a training session in Las Vegas to teach local organizers how to canvass Hispanic communities. A similar forum will be held soon in Florida, Dean said, and sessions in other states are in the planning stages.

The investment is intended to benefit other Democratic candidates as well, including high-profile House and Senate races in Colorado, New Mexico and Florida.

Last week's Pew poll suggested that Obama's support among Hispanics has climbed steadily since the primary season, when the increasingly influential voter group broke solidly for Hillary Clinton. But McCain also is competing aggressively for Hispanic support, and his campaign said a grass-roots effort is well underway.

"We've been doing all that," McCain spokeswoman Hessy Fernandez said of Obama's efforts.

The McCain campaign has zeroed in on a similar group of states, and the candidate will hit three of them this week: Nevada, Colorado and Florida. McCain is running Spanish-language radio, online and television ads and has hosted forums with Hispanic small-business owners, among other events.

Fernandez conceded that the Republican Party's poor standing with Hispanics, attributable partly to its stance on immigration, has harmed McCain. She said the challenge is to distinguish the candidate from the party, reminding voters that McCain's ties to the Hispanic community run deep. McCain has long advocated a middle ground on immigration, especially on the issue of illegal workers.


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