Spanish ads pit McCain, Obama against each other
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Fri Oct 17 19:28:23 UTC 2008
Spanish ads pit McCain, Obama against each otherMost of the nation is mostly unaware of battle for the Hispanic votein crucial statesBy HERNÃN ROZEMBERG
SAN ANTONIO — Months on the campaign trail and barely a mention. Mumalso in three nationally televised debates. But for nearly a month,unbeknownst to much of the country, the two presidential contendershave been slugging away at each other on immigration throughSpanish-language advertisements in crucial swing states with growingLatino populations whose votes could sway the election.The ads, running on Spanish-language television and radio in statessuch as Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico feature Democratic candidateBarack Obama and Republican nominee John McCain pointing fingers ateach other for not having done enough on immigration.
McCain launched the opening salvo by blaming Obama for the collapse oflast year's Senate bill seeking to overhaul the current immigrationsystem. Put on the defensive by what he deemed a false assault, Obamacountered days later with his own Spanish ad linking McCain to theextreme-right Republican wing, widely seen as anti-immigrant. Soensued a series of ongoing volleys on an issue that, until eclipsed bysuch matters as concerns over the economic meltdown, had retainednational interest.
Though the ads mostly dish out criticism and fall short of offeringsolutions to the immigration problem, it's no coincidence that they'rebeing offered only on Spanish-language airwaves, experts said.
Issue kept under radarEven before the economy took over as the top campaign issue, neithercandidate took the initiative to bring up immigration on the trailbecause both actually share similar views and neither saw a clearopening to gain political muscle.
"Immigration has been complicated, heated and polarizing," said AudreySinger, immigration policy analyst at the Brookings Institution inWashington. "Definitely not what you want to talk about in the lastcouple of weeks of the election."
By keeping the discussion limited to Spanish, both candidates havefound they could seek crucial Hispanic votes while keeping the issueunder the mainstream radar, said Federico Subervi, who teachesjournalism and mass communication at Texas State University in SanMarcos.
It's essentially traditional niche political advertising taken to ahigher strategic level because it's only in Spanish, said Subervi,director of the university's Center for the Study of Latino Media andMarkets.
"Through these attack ads, they've found a safe way to make their caseon who's the best candidate for Latinos," said Subervi. "They've founda common denominator that's not offensive to the broader public."
Why only in Spanish?Each campaign's point person for Hispanic media accused the other'sboss of being the culprit of the ad war while avoiding a direct answeron why it's being conducted only in Spanish.
Federico de Jesús, spokesman for Obama, said McCain started it all byissuing Spanish ads smearing Obama's record on immigration and theywere forced to respond in kind.
Unlike McCain, who's only willing to tackle immigration in Spanish sohe won't get burned by his party's more restrictionist base, de Jesússaid, Obama shares his views in both languages .
But the fact that Obama always waits for his opponent to take thefirst step in tackling immigration proves a total lack of leadershipon the issue, said Hessy Fernández, a spokeswoman for McCain.
Obama had been absent on the long slog to enact systemic immigrationpolicy changes until he decided to run for president, Fernández said,while McCain, who hails from a border state, has an establishedpacesetter record in the Senate.
"Latinos feel very strongly about immigration, and we need to remindthem that Senator McCain is their true friend," she said.
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