Barack Obama

Memo: PFAW and the Latino Vote

To: Interested Parties
From: Michael Keegan, President, People For the American Way
Date: November 7, 2012
Re: PFAW and the Latino Vote

It was always clear that Latino voters would be a crucial voting bloc in this year’s campaign. Yet many pundits, analysts and Republican politicians continually downplayed and undersold the potential impact of Latino voters using a variety of excuses: turnout will be low; Latinos will come around to Republican ideas on job creation; Latinos weren't paying attention to the Republican primary debates; maybe right-wing social issues might somehow become appealing by November. While we’re still poring over the election returns, it’s clear that, if anything, the impact of Latino voters’ support for progressive candidates exceeded almost everyone's expectations.

With an eye towards expanding the progressive base as well as immediate electoral impact, this year People For the American Way undertook a first of its kind, comprehensive plan to get out the vote and communicate with Latino voters in six key swing states about Mitt Romney’s dangerous agenda, as well as the GOP’s extreme and offensive rhetoric about the Latino community. With a combination of Spanish language television ads, Spanish language radio ads, internet ads and direct mail in both English and Spanish (see links below), we reached out to voters in two states with large Latino populations--Nevada and Colorado--as well as four other states where rapid population growth has put Latinos in a position to play kingmaker in a close race--Ohio, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Virginia.

These states represented crucial battlegrounds in the presidential election and in some cases (Ohio, Nevada, Wisconsin and Virginia) were also home to important Senate races.

The results were easy to see. In Colorado, where PFAW’s program had a significant footprint, 74% of Latinos supported the President, compared to only 61% four years ago. That increase offset a sizable decline in support from Anglo voters. Nationwide, Latino turnout also increased, with important increases in key states like Nevada, where the Latino share of the electorate increased four points—with a 45 point margin, 69 to 24%, for President Obama.

In states with smaller Latino populations, Latinos routinely delivered lopsided support to the President. In Virginia, the President won the Latino vote by 32 points (64-33%), in North Carolina by 31 (65-34%), and in Wisconsin by 37 (67-30%). In Virginia and Wisconsin in particular, Latino support also propelled Democratic Senate Candidates to victory—Tammy Baldwin won Latinos by 29 points (63-34%) while Tim Kaine won by 24 (62-38%).

The impact of the Latino vote, however, can’t be measured only in the results it yields in a single election, and history has shown that when Republicans alienate Latino voters they suffer the consequences for years. In 1994, California Governor Pete Wilson hitched his reelection campaign to the controversial, anti-immigrant Proposition 187. His gambit was successful in the short term—the governor was reelected and the initiative passed—but disastrous in the long run. By demonizing Latinos repeatedly on the campaign trail, Wilson permanently alienated the state’s fastest growing group. Since that time, Republicans have been rendered for the foreseeable future a permanent minority party in the state. In 1996 the first election after 187, Bill Clinton became the first Democratic presidential nominee in decades to win a clear majority in the state, and since then no other Democratic nominee has failed to do the same. Wilson’s exploitation effectively destroyed the GOP’s future in California.

In many key swing states, the Latino population is growing at a stunning pace, turning GOP bastions into swing states and swing states eventually into solid blue states. In Virginia, for instance, Latinos currently account for 7.9% of the population but have grown 91% in the last decade. Perhaps it is not a coincidence that in 2008 Virginia supported a Democrat for President for the first time since 1964 and did the same yesterday. In Wisconsin, Latinos account for 5.9% of the population, but have grown 74% in the same period. Perhaps most impressively, Latinos make up 8.4% of North Carolina’s population, but have grown a stunning 111% in ten years. None of these trends are likely to slow any time soon. If Latino power is the leading demographic story of 2012, it’s only a precursor to the impacts the nation will see in four, eight or twelve years.

This doesn’t bode well for Republican candidates in the future, nor can the GOP sidestep this challenge simply by toning down the rhetoric, focusing on social issues they hope will divide or reversing the party’s rigid opposition to meaningful immigration reform. It’s clear that the Republican dogma that any government action constitutes a giveaway that need to be eliminated runs counter to many of the concerns of the Latino community.

Until Republicans rethink their approach to government from the ground up and overcome their temptation to demonize Latinos and immigrants for short term gain, this toxic mix will lead the GOP to many future deserved defeats at the polls.

You can see samples of PFAW’s work below.


Obama Reelection a Mandate for Strong, Fair Supreme Court Picks

With the right wing maintaining a narrow majority on the Court, a Romney victory could have meant an entrenched bias on the Court for decades to come.

Endorsements Cite Supreme Court

Overwhelming majority of endorsements cite the Supreme Court as an enormous contributing factor to keeping President Obama in office.

The Right to Vote Under Attack, 2012 Update

Here we detail, as of October 6, 2012, except where otherwise noted, the latest efforts across the country to suppress the vote, as well as some encouraging successes in expanding the franchise.

What Kind of Justice Will We Vote for On Election Day?

President Obama's Supreme Court Justices respect the words and the values of the Constitution and deeply understand the law's impact on everyday Americans.

On Every Issue, Vote the Court

We are seeing increasing recognition of the Supreme Court as a central and critical issue in the presidential election.

People For the American Way Expands Latino Vote Campaign to Colorado

Washington, DC -- With a week to go before Election Day, People For the American Way has announced that it is expanding its national Latino voter campaign to run Spanish-language TV ads in Colorado, where the presidential race remains tight and the votes of Latinos will be critical. PFAW's message will counter that of Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS, which recently began running Spanish-language TV ads in Colorado. 

"Karl Rove is telling lies to Latinos in Colorado, trying to hide Mitt Romney's extreme anti-immigrant record," said Michael Keegan, President of People For the American Way. "We're making sure Latino voters in Colorado know the truth about Mitt Romney. He said he would veto the DREAM Act, if given the chance. His immigration plan is to copy the extreme anti-immigrant policies of Arizona and Alabama, attempting to force undocumented immigrants to 'self-deport.' He has embraced his party's anti-immigrant extremists, taking on Kris Kobach as an adviser. Romney's plans aren't real solutions -- they are dangerous gifts to the anti-immigrant Right."

The PFAW ad running in Colorado, "DREAM Act," can be viewed here.


Far Right Poised to Reverse a Century of Progress with Romney's Court

Far right scholars are eager for a Romney victory, because his Supreme Court would turn their cramped vision of the Constitution into reality.

PFAW Ad Campaign Reaches out to Latino Voters

This week, the White House made public President Obama’s endorsement interview with the Des Moines Register’s editorial board. In the interview, the president is frank about what he thinks could be the deciding factor in this election – the votes of Latinos:

The second thing I’m confident we’ll get done next year is immigration reform. And since this is off the record, I will just be very blunt. Should I win a second term, a big reason I will win a second term is because the Republican nominee and the Republican Party have so alienated the fastest-growing demographic group in the country, the Latino community. And this is a relatively new phenomenon. George Bush and Karl Rove were smart enough to understand the changing nature of America. And so I am fairly confident that they’re going to have a deep interest in getting that done. And I want to get it done because it’s the right thing to do and I've cared about this ever since I ran back in 2008.

The president is right that as the United States’ Latino population has grown in recent years, the GOP has increasingly pushed Latinos aside. While John McCain and George W. Bush both to some extent supported bipartisan efforts at comprehensive immigration reform, Mitt Romney has embraced some of his party’s most extreme anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies. He touted the endorsement of Kris Kobach, the man behind draconian anti-immigrant measures in Arizona and Alabama, then took Kobach on as an adviser. He said he would veto the DREAM Act if it were to be passed by Congress. He says his immigration strategy is to make the lives of immigrants so miserable that they are forced to “self-deport.” He endorsed Steve King, the Iowa congressman who has compared immigrants to “cattle” and “dogs.”

Unsurprisingly, Latino voters haven’t been responding well to Romney’s record. Bush won 40 percent of the Latino vote in 2004, and McCain won 31 percent in 2008. Romney is currently polling at 20 -25 percent among Latinos.

Earlier this month People For the American Way launched a 5-week, $1.2 million campaign to remind Latino voters about Mitt Romney’s policies. We’re running TV ads in four states (Ohio, Wisconsin, Virginia and Nevada), radio ads in five (with the addition of North Carolina), and operating a direct mail program. Here are the three of the TV ads that we’ve run so far. English translations are available in the description of each video on YouTube.

“Somos El 47%”



UPDATE: On October 29, we expanded the campaign to Colorado.


Obama Talks About the Supreme Court

The president discusses the consequences if the next Supreme Court justices are chosen by Mitt Romney.

PFAW Targets Female Voters in Ohio: Romney’s Supreme Court is Just Too Dangerous for Women

People For the American Way launched a campaign today aimed at making sure Ohio women understand the danger of a Supreme Court nominated by Mitt Romney. The campaign, which includes television, direct mail, Internet advertising and telephone calls, exposes the power that Romney’s Supreme Court justices would have to eliminate abortion rights and undermine the rights of women in the workplace.

The TV ad, “Mitt Romney’s Supreme Court: Too Extreme,” can be viewed here. Versions of the ad previously ran in Ohio and in Florida during the Republican National Convention.

“Mitt Romney too often tries to hide his extremism on issues including reproductive rights and equal pay,” said Michael Keegan, President of People For the American Way. “But when it comes to his Supreme Court picks, he’s been clear: he’ll bow to the far right and deliver justices who would roll back the rights of women. A Romney presidency might only last four years, but his Supreme Court could threaten the rights of women for a lifetime.”

“Polling has made it indisputably clear that women, particularly women in Ohio, will be critical in deciding the outcome of this election,” said Marge Baker, Executive Vice President of People For the American Way. “We’re making sure that female voters have all the facts about the dangers of a Romney presidency.”



Joel Gilbert Scoops NYT for Pulitzer but his Movie Continues to Turn Off Swing Voters

The New York Times today offers up the wide distribution of Joel Gilbert’s “Dreams From My Real Father” as a case study in “how secretive forces outside the presidential campaigns can sweep into battleground states days before the election.”

According to the Times, Republican strategist Frank Luntz, at the behest of unnamed conservative activists, focus-group tested Gilbert’s film this summer, along with Dinesh D’Souza’s “2016” and “The Hope and Change,” a Citizens United joint featuring interviews with disaffected Obama supporters.

“The Hope and the Change,” directed by Stephen K. Bannon and produced by Citizens United, the conservative political advocacy group, tested highest with focus groups and is running on local cable stations. It was shown here just before Monday’s debate.

Many conservatives also loved Mr. D’Souza’s film and wanted it to have wider distribution. It tested poorly, however, and Mr. Luntz warned his clients that it could undermine their cause.

Focus groups were revolted by “Dreams From My Real Father,” with its conspiracy theory paranoia and dubious evidence. It compares photos of the president and Mr. Davis, noting that they have similar noses and freckles. It also purports to have uncovered nude photos of Mr. Obama’s mother in a bondage magazine.

Mr. Luntz’s clients were not surprised. Their thinking was, “I want to know if it’s as bad as I think it is,” Mr. Luntz said.

The opinion of Luntz’s focus groups mirrors that of at least one Florida voter who got Gilbert’s movie in the mail and found it so disgusting he decided to vote for Obama.

Gilbert, for his part, remains convinced that he will come out with the upper hand, and perhaps beat out The New York Times for a Pulitzer:

Mr. Gilbert will not say where he received the money to distribute his movie — he claims to have sent out four million copies. “It’s a private company, so we don’t disclose who’s part of it,” he said. He also blamed the mainstream media for not looking deeper into the story he uncovered, telling The New York Times, “I hope you’re not angry or jealous that I beat you to it and might win the Pulitzer Prize.”

Joel Gilbert Swings a Florida Voter

Papers in Florida have been reporting recently on a curious DVD that has been turning up in mailboxes across the state. The video is none other than Joel Gilbert’s “Dreams From My Real Father,” a “documentary” narrated by a fictional Barack Obama claiming that Obama’s mother’s marriage to Barack Obama Sr. was a sham meant to cover up her relationship with labor activist and communist organizer Frank Marshall Davis, the president's "real father." Gilbert previously boasted that he sent the DVD to a million households across Ohio, but declines to divulge who is paying for his marketing campaign.

On Friday, Palm Beach’s WPTV reported that Gilbert’s film has managed to swing at least one Florida voter.

When Ron and Judy Cindrick received what was billed as "a must-watch DVD" in their mailbox, they decided to see what "Dreams from My Real Father" was all about.

Judy said what she saw shocked her.

"I was absolutely appalled when I began to watch this and they began to show pictures of Barack Obama's mother, his supposed mother, naked," she said.

Ron said watching the pseudo-documentary turns his stomach, and his vote. He believes the Obama conspiracy-type film has to be politically motivated.

"I am a registered Republican, and as of today, I will vote for Barack Obama after receiving this DVD," said Ron.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the film has also been showing up in mailboxes in Nevada and New Hampshire. In an interview with a Florida radio show on Saturday, Gilbert claimed a version of the film on Netflix Instant Play has been watched by 200,000 people.

Debate Exposes Importance of Supreme Court to Working Women

The discussion of Lilly Ledbetter highlights the threat to working women that Mitt Romney's Supreme Court would pose.

Supreme Court to Hear Arizona Voting Rights Case

The Supreme Court announced today that it will hear a critical voting rights case next year. Arizona has appealed a 9th Circuit decision that barred the state from requiring proof of citizenship from those registering to vote via a federally-approved registration form. Current federal law allows voters to register via federal form instead of a state-specific form. Those opting to do so must swear under penalty of perjury that they are citizens. Arizona’s law, which is currently stayed, would require voters using that form to jump over an extra hurdle to register, requiring them to show proof of their citizenship, a provision disproportionately affecting low-income and minority voters.

The AP explains:

The ruling applies only to people who seek to register using the federal mail-in form. Arizona has its own form and an online system to register when renewing a driver's license. The court ruling did not affect proof of citizenship requirements using the state forms.

Arizona officials have said most people use those methods and the state form is what county officials give people to use to register. But voting rights advocates had hoped the 9th Circuit decision would make the federal mail-in card more popular because it's more convenient than mailing in a state form with a photocopy of proof of citizenship.

The mail-in card is particularly useful for voter registration drives, said Robert Kengle of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which is representing Native American and Hispanic groups in the case.

The conservative wing of the Supreme Court has been eager to challenge voting rights laws in recent years. In 2008, a 6-3 majority of the court upheld Indiana’s voter ID law, paving the way for suppressive voter ID measures throughout the country. The Court may also hear a challenge to section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires federal preclearance for voting rights changes in states and counties with a history of discrimination at the ballot box. Successful court challenges to discriminatory voting law changes this year have shown just how essential that provision still is.

While the composition of the Supreme Court is unlikely to change before these cases are heard, they underscore the importance of federal courts in this election. Not only are federal courts the final protection we have against discriminatory voter suppression laws, the makeup of these courts is on the line in the presidential election. Either Mitt Romney or President Obama could pick up to three Supreme Court Justices and dozens of federal court judges in the next term. Romney has promised to appoint Justices like Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, who have both signaled their hostility to voting rights. If he does, and the Court shifts farther to the right, we could see decades of progress for fair and free elections slip away.

Share this page: Facebook Twitter Digg SU Digg Delicious