Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

July 31, 2008


Host: Ted Simons

McCain Hispanic Vote


  • During his Arizona senate races, John McCain garnered up to 70 percent of the Hispanic vote. Now, with Senator Barack Obama as his opponent in the presidential election, he's struggling to get Hispanic support nationwide. Find out what McCain can do to increase Latino support.
Guests:
  • Dr. Mark Dowling - Superintendent of the Roosevelt district
  • Helen Purcell - Maricopa County Recorder
  • Susan Tierney - Public Information Officer, Valley Metro


View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Arizona Senator John McCain faces a challenge when it comes to Hispanic voters. Despite earlier gains by President George Bush among Hispanics, McCain is struggling to pick up the Latino vote. McCain appeared at the latest conference of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials where he was heckled by some in the audience. Mike Sauceda reports.

John McCain:
I represent Arizona.

Heckler:
John, you represent Arizona and we say -- (shouting).

Mike Sauceda:
Not the best reception for Senator John McCain at the latest National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials conference in Washington, D.C. He was heckled even though members of the nonpartisan group were reminded ahead of time to behave themselves. It's not always been this way. McCain's support in the past had been strong among Latinos. He garnered up to 70\% of the Hispanic vote in his run for Senate in Arizona. He won't get those kind of numbers of course in the national election and recent polls show him trailing Barack Obama 2-1 among Latinos. And this year's election will probably see the Republican candidate dip below the 40\% Hispanic vote President Bush got in 2004, that was up from 34\% in 2000. So what must McCain do to shore up his support among Hispanics? Professor Matt Barreto of the University of Washington says reaching out to Hispanics requires a lot more sophistication now.

Matt Barreto:
The times are changing. In 1976 Gerald Ford went to San Antonio to a festival and it was a photo op, just to go and campaign for the Latino vote there and he ordered a tamale and he didn't take the husk off, so he got the tamale, they brought it to him, everyone there, a lot of fanfare, and everyone snapping pictures and he just picked it up and started eating it, and just showed the utter lack of knowledge and respect and appreciation for Latino culture and even just cuisine. We're far past those days and I think candidates are starting to, starting to get savvier in terms of how they reach out to Latino voters and talk to Latino voters.

John McCain:
As I was about to say, I represent Arizona, where Spanish was spoken before English was. And where the character and prosperity -

Mike Sauceda:
McCain's support for comprehensive immigration reform helped his support among Hispanics but that has evaporated as McCain has switched his focus to border security to appease the right wing of his party.

Matt Barreto:
I think two years ago John McCain was really a lot stronger candidate for the Latino vote than he is today. We know that he helped the compromise bill on immigration reform. He cosponsored the compromise legislation, both in 2006 and in 2007, the two years that the Senate attempted to pass a bill. He was supportive of immigrant rights, of comprehensive immigration reform. And he wasn't demonizing immigrants as many on the far right were doing. And so in a lot of respects people thought John McCain would have a chance at the Latino vote. Now we know that he has slightly changed his position, and even though there's only been a slight change in the policy, there's been a major change in the emphasis. When he talks about immigration reform now, he says we need to secure the borders first. That's really the only tune that he's singing today and that's not resonating with Latino voters because that means that immigration reform for those immigrants who are already here is not going to happen.

John McCain:
When you visit Iraq and Afghanistan, you'll meet some of the thousands of Hispanic Americans who serve there and many of those -

Mike Sauceda:
But McCain still has some attributes that Hispanics like in a candidate.

Matt Barreto:
But I think McCain could have an opportunity with the issue of military. We know that within the Latino community when you're comparing against all other racial and ethnic groups, Latinos have tended to have the highest support for the institution of the military. They have very high enrollment numbers in the military. When we ask questions about patriotism, they're very, very high supports for patriotism, respect for the military as an institution, and respect for war heroes, there are many great Latino war heroes and have served in the United States Military, and I think that if he plays that angle and doesn't just play it as from a generic angle but really gets to understand why the military has been an opportunity, the G.I. Bill and other sorts of opportunities for the Latino community, how they have served in the capacities that they've served, and to play to that, I think Latinos will respect that message.

Mike Sauceda:
Delia Garcia, a state lawmaker from Kansas, says she thinks McCain's connections with Arizona Latinos will help him.

Delia Garcia:
I think, also being from the state of Arizona that he probably has some Latinos there who would back him up. I think it's always important to have a Latino face that Latinos are familiar with and respect, or even see themselves in, to say that message, this is the person I'm voting for, vote for them too.

Mike Sauceda:
But she says McCain and Obama need to do more to reach out for Hispanics.

Delia Garcia:
Well, I think both of them, I think it's equal. In fact, that's the question I think I've gotten asked by two media today and the same answer for both parties would be first and foremost, is get a Latino/Latina who's well knowledgeable in the Latino behaviors and issues, on your top cabinet, kitchen cabinet, kind of your top advisors, your top staff. First and foremost. Second thing is to put moneys into Latino vote outreach. You need to get those voters to the voting polls and give them a reason. And in order to find that out you need the research, and polling, and all those things that the person on your staff would know what to do and where to go. Those are the two things that I know need to happen.

Mike Sauceda:
McCain's appearance at NALEO and other Hispanic conferences have shown he is working to get back Hispanic support.

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