The May jobs report handed presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney a potent line of attack against President Obama in the battle for the Hispanic vote: The unemployment rate in that demographic jumped from 10.3 percent to 11 percent, its highest level in 2012.
Romney seized on the bad news as proof of the president’s shoddy economic stewardship in a speech this week at a Hispanic-owned business in Fort Worth, Texas. Prominent Hispanic surrogates piled on, including Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and former U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, who was named this week to head Romney’s Hispanic steering committee.
Romney supporters also pushed back hard against Obama strategist David Axelrod’s recent remark that it would be “an insult to the Hispanic community’’ for Romney to choose Rubio as his running mate in light of his campaign’s hard-line stance against illegal immigration.
But the Romney campaign has yet to put money behind its message. It spent a mere $12,000 on Spanish-language ads this week in Raleigh, N.C., and Cleveland, according to media trackers. Romney also released a free Internet ad that mocks a clip from one of Obama’s spots in which a supporter says in Spanish, “We’re on the right path.’’ “Really?’’ Romney’s video asks, as statistics about the Hispanic community’s economic struggles roll down the screen.
It’s a strong rebuttal, but one that so far could be drowned out by President Obama’s six-figure spending in Spanish-language media. “The president has our back,’’ says pop star Marc Anthony, who will headline a concert fundraiser for Obama on June 26 in Miami Beach and stars in a new video promoting Obama’s Hispanic outreach.
After a robust fundraising month in May, Romney appears to be testing his message in the battleground states of Ohio and North Carolina before making any decisions about a Spanish media blitz. In the meantime, Obama is pulling way ahead. A Latino Decision poll released on Friday shows Obama with a 43-point lead over Romney among Hispanic voters nationwide.
“He’s an investor,” Democratic Rep. Xavier Becerra of California said of Romney in an interview on Thursday with Fox News Latino. “And for him to invest such a tiny fraction of his campaign money to reach out to Latinos I think is a clear sign he doesn’t care much about Latinos.”
Romney doesn't have to win the Hispanic vote to get to the White House. But he does have to garner enough of the community's support to win a handful of key battleground states, including Florida.
And if the 2010 governor's race in that state is a guide, Romney needs to boost his presence on Spanish-language television and radio before November.
Exit polls show Republican Rick Scott narrowly carried the Hispanic vote -- despite a primary campaign that promised to bring Arizona’s crackdown on illegal immigration to the state. He spent roughly $3 million in Spanish-language ads that focused on his jobs agenda.
“Scott was on the wrong side of the immigration issue, but he invested in Hispanic media,’’ said Democratic strategist Freddy Balsera, who advises Obama on Hispanic outreach. “Investment translates into votes.’’