President Barack Obama’s campaign team realized even before Romney was nominated that the growing Latino vote was the key to a second Obama term. And they acted to sew it up with an early, sweeping and persistent effort. It paid off, and it’s not clear that Romney even saw the under-the-radar operation coming.
The Obama campaign began aggressive Latino outreach early, setting up a team even before the GOP primaries began.
“Essentially, we started a year-and- a-half ago,” an Obama campaign official told POLITICO. “Previous presidential campaigns really brought in their Hispanic team three months out to do GOTV, but we had a lot of voter education to do.”
“It was by design that we created such an ambitious program. I don’t think that it’s that surprising.”
In the middle of 2011, Obama’s team built a Spanish-language media list of more than 700 thought leaders — from the smallest Spanish-language paper in Iowa to talk-radio hosts who lure millions of listeners.
At that point, very few Hispanic media leaders were paying any attention to the election — and a few even asked to be taken off the list. But Obama campaign aides began aggressively working to nab free media to highlight the popular parts of the president’s health care overhaul, and the administration’s “Race to the Top” program awarding innovative state education programs.
The campaign went on the air on April 17 — right after Romney had effectively clinched the GOP nod — in Spanish media in Nevada, Colorado and Florida and never came down. Closer to the election, the campaign expanded its efforts to Ohio and Virginia. Their first flight of ads used real people, including volunteers and staff members, explaining how Obama had helped them. The ads featured students talking about getting Pell grants, for example. Further ads touted popular elements of the health care law. The third wave of ads focused on small business. The campaign cut a lot of state-specific ads on Spanish TV and radio, including about Medicare in Florida.
“We weren’t putting a Mexican up in South Florida. We were putting a Cuban up in South Florida,” said one aide.
It was a priority at headquarters to add a Latino dimension to press roll-outs. For example, when attacking the auto bailout in Ohio, the campaign found a Spanish-speaking autoworker who was comfortable talking to the press. In Colorado, they made sure a Latino was at every press conference.
“It was a lot of work, but at the beginning, Hispanics couldn’t tell you a thing Obama had done,” the official said.
To push their message to Latinos constantly and effectively, Obama’s camp had a parallel regional structure in the media department — two bookers for Spanish TV, three regional press secretaries in Obama for America and at the Democratic National Committee another six regional spokesmen focused on Spanish media.
The president did an off-the-record conference call with Latino DJs from Air Force One. Some on the call were from Iowa, North Carolina and Virginia — “Latinos that never, ever in their wildest dreams thought they would speak with the president.”
Read the whole thing, then ask yourself the same question I’ve been asking over and over again: What do we have to do to get this kind of operation in Texas? Note, too, that where Team Obama did GOTV in general, turnout was about the same as it was in 2008, but it was down in most other states. That wouldn’t have been enough to tip Texas, of course – at best, it would have made the result about the same as 2008 – but I can think of a few downballot races where it would have mattered. sigh Next time, if only, next time…