Bush's ads English-only so far in Iowa
By JEFF ZELENY/Register Staff Writer
November 12, 1999
Web posted at: 5:32 p.m. EST (2232 GMT)
DES MOINES, Iowa (Des Moines Register) -- When Texas Gov. George W. Bush unveiled his Spanish radio campaign two weeks ago, his aides heralded the move as an "unprecedented Hispanic effort in Iowa."
But the radio commercial, which promises "the beginning of a new day for Latinos," has not been heard by a single voter in Iowa.
The ad, titled "The Spotlight Is On Us," was released to the national media Oct. 25. The commercial has frequently been cited as an example of the Bush campaign's aggressive effort to court Hispanic voters.
The Des Moines Register conducted a spot check of 25 radio stations in seven Iowa cities with significant Hispanic populations. No station is broadcasting the Spanish commercial, even though the Bush campaign Web site says the ad was launched in October.
"This week marks an important historic event in Iowa," Bush said late last month. "Not only have we launched our Spanish campaign, but I am excited to introduce our Iowa Hispanic steering committee."
Eric Woolson, an Iowa spokesman for Bush, said Thursday the campaign's efforts to reach Hispanic voters are sincere.
Woolson pointed to the Texas governor's popularity among Hispanic voters in his home state, as well as the fact that Bush is the only presidential candidate with a Hispanic steering committee in Iowa.
"Ads will be placed soon," said Woolson, who added that the Bush campaign "didn't mean to create the impression" that the Spanish ads started to air two weeks ago.
The campaign now plans to air the commercials during Hispanic speciality programming on Des Moines station KDMI-AM and a Sioux City station, which Woolson could not identify.
The Bush campaign also plans to place Spanish ads in the state's three weekly Hispanic newspapers, Woolson said, located in Sioux City, Perry and the Quad Cities.
The campaign has no plans of broadcasting the Spanish radio ad on larger statewide radio stations, Woolson said.
"You hunt ducks where the ducks are," Woolson said. "In this case, you reach out to Hispanic and Latino voters where they are and where the media opportunities are."
Iowa's Hispanic population is being courted like never before by presidential candidates who are campaigning for the leadoff caucuses on Jan. 24. The Hispanic population, which has grown 74 percent between 1990 and 1998, still only represents about 2 percent of the state's total residents.
Hispanic leaders in Iowa say they are grateful for the attention, but added that it's not enough for candidates to simply rattle off a few memorized Spanish phrases.
"I just don't want to have someone's attention for the time being and then be dropped like a hot potato," said Elizabeth Salinas Newby, who runs the state's Division of Latino Affairs. "I'm glad that they are addressing us, as long as they follow through and are sincere with us."
Vice President Al Gore also has worked aggressively to court Latinos in Iowa, mailing literature and recruiting voters to Democratic precinct caucuses. A Gore aide said the campaign also plans to run ads targeting Hispanics.
Hector Avalos, director of the Latino Studies program at Iowa State University, said "it's a good ice-breaker" when Bush and Gore speak Spanish at campaign rallies. But Avalos said he would prefer that candidates address issues of concern to Latinos, specifically immigration, even if it meant doing so in English.
"The Spanish part is welcome, but not unless it is followed up by substantive discussion," Avalos said.
Jaime Hernandez, an engineer at Iowa State University in Ames, is a member of the Bush Hispanic steering committee. During his four visits with Bush this year in Iowa, Hernandez said he was impressed with the candidate's commitment to Hispanic issues and his record in Texas.
"He is one of the very few candidates that has put in an effort and a strategy to include this segment of the population," Hernandez said.
Laura Castro De Cortes, a West Des Moines public relations consultant who supports Gore, said she doesn't take seriously the Hispanic rhetoric spoken by Bush or other Republican candidates.