Biden campaign is ramping up its strategy to win over Latino voters

WASHINGTON — President Biden’s re-election campaign is ramping up its strategy this week to try to win over Latino voters, with plans to use Wednesday’s Republican primary debate in California as a backdrop for new efforts to gain support from a critical constituency, according to two senior campaign officials.

The campaign’s broader strategy includes tailored ads for Latino voters in battleground states using narrators with accents from their countries or regions of origin; messaging on television and digital platforms that are popular with Latinos; and standing up an early effort to counter misinformation aimed at Latino voters, which Democratic officials believe eroded some support for Biden among Latinos in 2020.

“President Biden’s campaign knows Latinos’ political power and is investing early and aggressively to make his case because we won’t take their votes for granted,” said Maca Casado, Hispanic media director for the Biden campaign.

The campaign’s new playbook comes as polling shows that enthusiasm among Latino voters is lagging. A new NBC News poll released this week found 51% of Latinos have a high interest in the election, compared with 73% of white voters. Overall, Latinos currently have a lower interest in the 2024 election than at this same point in past election cycles.

Shoring up Latino support, and voter turnout, could make the difference for Biden in key states in what’s expected to be a tight race, particularly if it’s a rematch between Biden and Republican front-runner, former President Donald Trump. While Biden overwhelmingly won among Latino voters in 2020, that year Trump gained more of their support than in the 2016 election.

“Latino voters have been the swing factor in some swing states for a number of electoral cycles, but especially now, given the size that they have attained across the country and in key pockets,” said Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, a political scientist and analyst for NBC News and Telemundo.

On the sidelines of Wednesday’s GOP debate at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison and Biden campaign manager Julie Chávez Rodríguez plan to host a series of events focused on Latino voters, Biden campaign officials said.

One event, they said, will specifically focus on Latino men, whose support for Biden trails that of Latina women. A poll released Monday by Univision, a co-sponsor of the GOP debate, found that Biden leads Trump among Latino men 54% to 38%, while among Latina women his lead is much wider — 61% to 25%.

The Biden campaign is also deploying Spanish-speaking surrogates to Simi Valley, including Rep. Verónica Escobar, D-Texas, and the mayor of Tucson, Arizona, Regina Romero, campaign officials said.

The Democratic National Committee, which has a significantly larger staff than the Biden campaign, is playing a key role in the president’s broader strategy. The DNC is running a program to register as many as possible of the more than four million Latinos who’ve turned 18 since the 2020 election and are now eligible to vote, Democratic officials said. The party apparatus has established a “bootcamp” as well, these officials said, to train and hire more bilingual staff to deploy in battleground states for outreach to Spanish-speaking voters.

‘Starting out way, way ahead’

The Biden team has made one key adjustment to its 2020 Latino outreach strategy — which officials believe helped the president carry states like Arizona, Nevada, Georgia and Pennsylvania — that they hope will pay off in 2024: It is beginning its outreach efforts earlier.

“The biggest difference between 2020 and 2024 is that the 2020 campaign targeting Latinos did not really get started until July 2020, so only four months out, because of the long primary and then COVID-19,” said Democratic pollster Matt Barreto, who worked for the Biden campaign in 2020. “2024 is already starting out way, way ahead and already has a large team in place.”

Indeed, while Biden’s 2020 campaign mobilized record levels of Latino voters in several key states, some Latino groups expressed frustration at the time that the campaign didn’t court Latinos as aggressively as they’d hoped. The groups thought the Biden team lost some opportunities to carry 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s Latino support in states like Florida and Texas.

The Biden campaign’s strategy now also is designed to address concerns expressed by Latino community leaders about the importance of understanding how diverse and complex the Latino vote is — representing over 20 Latin American countries. Latino voters are the fastest-growing constituency in the country, and the more than 60 million Latinos in America range widely in age, political ideologies, Spanish-language proficiency and time in the U.S.

“The DNC’s outreach in the 2024 cycle is designed to ensure messaging and content is tailored to all the different kinds of Latinos that live in the country — young, older, native-born, immigrants, first generation, Spanglish speakers, bilinguals, et cetera,” said Maria Cardona, a senior adviser to the DNC.

Republicans said the effort won’t work. “Democrats have taken the Hispanic community for granted for far too long,” Jaime Florez, the Republican National Committee’s Hispanic outreach and communications director, said in a statement to NBC News. “No amount of money spent will change the fact that Biden is a disaster for our community, from the economy, to the border and rising crime.”

Florez specifically pointed to the economy as an issue where a Republican nominee could appeal to Latino voters.

Biden has struggled to get his economic message to resonate with the majority of Americans, including Latinos, according to the new NBC News poll, which also showed Biden ahead of Trump among Latino voters by 51% to 39%.

In the Univision poll, inflation and cost of living ranks first among the concerns of registered Latino voters. And they don’t see either party as having a clear plan to deal with those issues, 27% believing Biden does, and 22% believing Republicans do, according to the poll.

‘La Diferencia’

While Trump won’t be at Wednesday’s debate, Biden campaign officials plan nonetheless to seize on the Republican candidates’ comments in an attempt to cast the entire GOP field — led by the former president — as advocating for policies that would hurt Latino voters, and to contrast that with Biden.

The campaign, whose push to win over Latino voters also coincides with Hispanic Heritage Month, highlighted an endorsement Tuesday from members of the predominantly-Latino United Farm Workers union at an event in the Simi Valley area.

“Republicans talk a lot of game, but Joe Biden actually delivers for Latinos,” Casado said.

To underscore the point, the campaign plans to hire a plane and billboard truck carrying its message to circle the Reagan Library on Wednesday.

The Biden campaign also is set to air its latest Latino-focused ad and the first to draw a contrast between Biden and Republicans during a Univision broadcast of the Republican debate. And throughout this week, the ad — called “La Diferencia” or “The Difference” — will run on television and digital platforms in seven battleground states in both English and Spanish, according to senior campaign advisers.

The campaign’s 2024 strategy largely focuses on honing their Latino messaging in Arizona, Nevada, Georgia, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Michigan and Wisconsin, officials said.

Campaign officials said that includes flooding Biden’s message onto platforms that are popular with Latinos — soccer content on sports platforms, Latino-focused channels and playlists on YouTube, and even buying ad time on WAPA-TV, an independent television station in San Juan, Puerto Rico, as many Puerto Ricans living in the mainland of the U.S. still get their news directly from the island.

The campaign’s tailored outreach to Latinos by their countries or regions of origin has involved using a Puerto Rican-accented narrator in ads aimed at Puerto Ricans in Pennsylvania and Florida, and Mexican American-accents in others designed to court Mexicans in Arizona and Nevada, the officials said.

They also said the campaign will try to use local scenery and images from the Latino community in each state so that the ads feel more relevant and familiar.

Democratic officials are hoping an early start on messaging will help counter misinformation.

Latinos were flooded with misinformation during the 2020 and 2022 elections. Some of the most powerful GOP campaign ads in those election cycles featured clips of Democratic candidates talking about progressive policies to try to link Democratic candidates to socialism and encourage Latinos who fled socialism in their home countries to vote Republican.

“Misinformation is still a massive problem that Republicans will continue to weaponize,” said Cardona. “Democrats have gotten much better at tracking the problem and responding in a timely manner, something we did not do enough of in 2020.”

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