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Obama and McCain Ignore Latino Media

La Opinin, Commentary, Pilar Marrero, Translated by Elena Shore Posted: May 31, 2008

Editors Note: The Obama campaign has almost completely ignored Latino media, and the McCain campaign is even worse, writes La Opinin columnist Pilar Marrero. La Opinin endorsed Obama and McCain in their respective primaries.

LOS ANGELES -- The Barack Obama presidential campaigns indifference to the Latino press has been a problem since the beginning of the race. The people surrounding the candidate dont seem too aware or concerned about maintaining communication with the media that informs the Spanish-speaking community, even after repeated complaints from journalists (including this writer) about the lack of coordination and access to the candidate.

Usually, to do the job, reporters need a constant and accessible contact person in the campaign. In Obamas case, this has been virtually impossible: there is not -- nor has there ever been -- regular communication with the Hispanic press.

One wonders what might happen in the general election campaign and then in an eventual Democratic presidency, if indeed they win in November.

John McCain hasnt been any better. In fact, he has been worse. No one in the McCain campaign has made himself known as the contact for Latino media (at least not with this newspaper).

Likewise, all of the Republican candidates have practically ignored the Latino media. The only exception was Mitt Romney, who had a Latino press secretary who communicated directly with the press. This didnt end up helping him much, though, because his message didnt resonate with the community or with Floridas Cuban Americans, who voted for McCain.

The job of politicians press secretaries is precisely this: an exchange with the media, responses to their questions, access to the candidate, his government program and activities.

This is not an ego question. Media access to a campaign, and the campaigns responsiveness when journalists communicate with them, is important in order to ensure complete coverage. Media also have a responsibility to do our job -- its just that the campaigns are making it a little harder and more frustrating.

It should be noted that the Hillary Clinton campaign has taken great care with these details. This, among other reasons, is why she received support from the Latino community in many states.

All of this comes into play because what lies ahead is very likely a contest between McCain and Obama, and Latinos are going to be a disputed group between them.

Many studies and experts claim that this year, as in 1996, Republicans will figure poorly when it comes to the national Latino vote. However, there are also those who wonder whether Obama can capture a vote that has proved difficult for him.

A community that is not very excited about the candidates could choose to stay home and not vote. Although we have seen record naturalization numbers and there will be programs to encourage Latinos to vote, it remains to be seen whether the enthusiasm is there.

Obama may be able to win the nomination without the support of a majority of Latinos, but one thing is clear: he cant reach the White House without them.

In theory, it shouldnt be so difficult: it is an impossible year for Republicans. Youve heard people say that Latinos are Republicans, but just dont know it yet -- Ronald Reagans famous expression -- because, theoretically, the Latino community is religious, family-oriented, has traditional values, is against abortion, etc.

But time has shown that Latinos, unlike certain segments of the Anglo-Saxon population -- especially in rural areas of the country -- do not vote based on religion, abortion, the right to carry arms or anything of the sort. They tend to vote with their pocketbooks and for the welfare of their family.

Now more than ever, the crises in our economy, health care system, immigration law, war and a long list of other issues would in theory push us toward the Democratic candidate. But Republicans will make every effort to retain a percentage of the electorate.

It would be good, however, for campaigns to show a little more availability and interest by providing information to the community media. We hope that what has happened does not reflect their lack of attention or disinterest toward this sector of the population in general.

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