Posted on December 31, 2019

Presidential Candidates Use Spanish Ads, Events to Court Latinos in Primary Race

Sabrina Siddiqui and Emily Glazer, Wall Street Journal, December 31, 2019

Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s campaign translates some Nevada events from English to Spanish in real time to engage with Spanish-speaking audience members. Organizers for South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg routinely hand out materials targeting Latino voters at naturalization ceremonies.

Former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign runs Spanish-language phone banks in states like Nevada. And the campaign of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders says it has held at least 250 bilingual volunteer events with more than 3,200 attendees.

Democratic presidential candidates and President Trump are seeking new ways to use Spanish-language events and messages to make inroads with an estimated 32 million eligible Latino voters, a key constituency that could surpass black voters as the largest minority voting bloc in the U.S. next year.

In 2018, the number of Hispanics who turned out to vote reached 11.7 million, nearly double the 6.8 million in 2014, which Pew Research Center said was the single largest increase on record from one midterm election to another.

Activists have warned the Democratic Party against taking these voters for granted in the general election, but Latinos are also being wooed in the primaries in states where they make up a significant chunk of the electorate.

More than half of U.S. Latinos live in three states—California, Florida and Texas—that account for a big share of delegates to the 2020 Democratic National Convention. Nevada also has a large Latino population and plays an outsize role in picking the nominee because its caucuses are the third state contest.

Campaigns “should be spending a lot of time, energy and resources looking at what makes this community of voters tick,” said political strategist Lorena Chambers.


The Sanders campaign, which says it has at least 80 Latino staffers nationwide, has launched Spanish-language phone banks and sends text messages in Spanish to remind Latino voters to register to vote or attend events. His campaign is running ads in Spanish that highlight issues dominating the Democratic primary, such as health care, climate change and income inequality.

Last month, he unveiled an immigration plan designed by three campaign staffers who are undocumented immigrants and beneficiaries of former President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. And in mid-December, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has endorsed Mr. Sanders, participated in a Nevada town-hall meeting that was entirely in Spanish.


Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign has been courting Latino voters with advertising, events and volunteer training in Florida, the battleground he narrowly won in 2016, and more than a dozen other swing states, a senior Trump campaign official said. It has been running Spanish-language digital ads since March, the official said.


A September poll from Univision found 73% of Latinos said they plan to vote for the Democratic nominee in the general election next year, whereas 16% planned to vote for Mr. Trump, and 11% were undecided.