Key 2008

Rooting for the Winner

Obama WinningThe press is pulling for a close election, and doing their best to report it as one, but all the indicators point to Obama continuing to widen his lead. With everyone expecting McCain to make a run, why isn't it happening?

My feeling is that it has to do with one of America's most cherished traditions: Love for winning.  Though most Americans might have favored John Kerry's policies in 2004, or Al Gore's experience in 2000, George Bush knew how to talk like a winner.  He looked like a winner.  He was confident and sure of himself. The same was true of Bill Clinton, and people gravitated toward him.

Since the conventions, McCain has looked increasingly like a guy who's about to lose an election.  He's nervous, he stumbles in his speeches, he looks awkward on stage, and his campaign is all over the place.  Obama, by contrast, looks ever more presidential. In the debates he was calm, cool, well-spoken and connectable.  He's acting like a winner, and everybody wants to be on the winning team.

This has created a positive feedback loop for Obama: The further ahead he gets, the more he looks like a president, and the more confident people become in his abilities.  I still think it's reasonable to expect McCain to pick up a few points in the polls, but most of America is now expecting-- and looking forward to-- a President Obama.

Ad Wars: En Español

With only two weeks to go until Election Day, Sen. Barack Obama is clearly not taking the Hispanic vote for granted as he continues flooding the airwaves in Spanish with no less than three new radio and television ads.  The first radio ad, "Ataques" ("Attacks") addresses Sen. McCain's attack tactics, and is airing in NM, CO, NV, PA, IN, WI, OH, VA, NC, Central FL, and South Florida (Miami, West Palm Beach).  It's interesting that there's an entire second version of the ad for Southern Florida, using voices that have more of a Caribbean tint to them, which reflects the origin of most Latinos in that area.  I see this as an indicator of why Obama has been doing so well among Hispanics - he recognizes our differences.

The second ad, also on radio and recorded by Senator Ken Salazar, "CO, Salazar Early Vote" airing in Colorado, is aimed at motivating voters to vote early.  

The third ad, a television spot called "Oportunidad" ("Opportunity") is about access to higher education, airing in NM, NV, CO and FL.  See the tv ad below, along with the English translations of the ads.

Oportunidad (TV Ad Version)

 BO:  I'm Barack Obama and I approve this message.

Voiceover:
The cost of a college education is a real worry for many families.
But under the Obama Plan a student can earn the first $4,000 of tuition through community service.
Putting a college education within everyone's reach.
And the Obama Plan offers scholarships to recruit more teachers to make sure our children are ready (smart/prepared).
With Obama and the Democrats ... a new opportunity.

Ataques (Radio Version)

ANNOUNCER 1:
Wow, have you heard the terrible lies that John McCain and the Republicans are saying about Barack Obama?  How horrible.

[ANNOUNCER 2:]
Well, it doesn't surprise me.  The republicans will say anything to distract the public from the economy.

[ANNOUNCER 1:]
My neighbor - who has 2 kids - lost her job and her health insurance last week.  And her husband, who works in construction, is about to lose his.  I don't want to hear any more attacks.  I want to know what the candidates will do for us.

[ANNOUNCER 2:]
Well, that's why Barack Obama is my candidate.  Instead of continuing George Bush's same failed policies - like John McCain wants to do - Barack Obama understands what our community needs from a President. He has specific ideas to help us.

[ANNOUNCER 1:]
Under Obama, the middle class will receive three times more relief than with McCain.  Obama will cut our taxes!

 [ANNOUNCER 2:]
And what matters to me is that Obama has a plan to give health insurance to all.  My neighbor will be saved!

[ANNOUNCER 1:]
Barack Obama and the democrats are the change we need.

[BO:]  I´m Barack Obama, candidate for President, and I approve this message.

CO Salazar Early Vote (Radio ad)

[KEN SALAZAR:]
In Colorado - the gateway to the West - we know anything is possible if you're willing to do the work. 

This is US Senator Ken Salazar. My parents raised 8 kids on a ranch.  We were poor, with no electricity and no telephone, but all of us became first generation college graduates.
Like my parents, we all will do anything for our families.

And you can do something for your family right now: vote. You don't have to wait until Election Day.  You can vote early, today thru October 31st

With Barack Obama and the Democrats real change is within our grasp ... affordable health care ... investing in jobs here at home, and a college education that's affordable for every family ... whether they be rich or poor.

To find an early voting location near you, go online at VoteForChange.com... VoteForChange.com.

What are you waiting for?  After eight years of George Bush, we can't afford more of the same.

This is Ken Salazar asking you to vote early today for Barack Obama and the Democrats. 

[BO:]  I´m Barack Obama, candidate for President, and I approve this message.

Palin to Appear on Spanish-language TV

As promised, Palin did give an interview to Jorge Ramos, of Univision, which will be aired on the network's Sunday morning political show, Al Punto, this weekend.  Here's a sneak peek of the interview: she talks about Hugo Chavez, Colin Powell's endorsement of Barack Obama, and Immigration.  On immigration, Gov. Palin accepts that it's impossible to deport all the undocumented, and she emphasized Sen. McCain's view of "enforcement first" as the appropriate path to follow.  When asked if she'd stop the immigration raids, Gov. Palin said she couldn't say that she would, but rather would need to take a case by case approach. 

Early Voting in the Spotlight

Las Vegas, NV - Voters around the country continue to take advantage of Early Voting options, and are casting ballots in record numbers.  Voters are not the only ones taking advantage of this process, campaigns are also working their supporters to make sure that they mobilize their voters.  Below is a list of stories covering Early Voting:

Washington Post - Obama Blitzes Florida As Early Voting Starts 

Salon - Banking on early votes for Barack

Rocky Mountain News - Salazar promotes early voting

Denver Post - Early voting kicks off

Reno Gazette Journal - Early voters line up to cast their election ballots

USA Today - Early voting a boost for Dems

NY Times - More Democrats Casting Early Ballots, Data Show

Miami Herald - Obama pushes economic policies, early voting in Tampa

Early Voting Breaking Records

Las Vegas, NV - This past weekend, I had the privilege of joining 45,658 other voters in Clark County, Nevada to set a new record of Early Voting participation in this state.  It was an awesome experience to see so many people excited about participating in the electoral process.  I had the opportunity to go to my neighborhood grocery store, and cast my ballot on an electronic voting machine.  I should note for those reading this post who are skeptical about electronic machines that Nevada was the first state to offer a printed verification receipt, and has set the standard on this topic.

As a former campaign operative, I know how difficult it can be to motivate voters to turn out during election season, but this weekend showed that voters were taking advantage of Early Voting and ensuring that they get a chance to participate in this election all on their own. This activity is not unique to Nevada, and several news outlets are reporting that Early Voting participation is up all over the country.  Read the CQ article here and the NY Times article here.  

Since this process is fairly new to many voters across the country and several states do not offer Early Voting, I have received several requests to explain how this process works.  I will be providing frequent updates on this process and will work on providing photos and video of this process.  Stay tuned!

Joe Garcia v. Mario Diaz Balart on "Al Punto"

Yesterday on "Al Punto", Univision's Sunday morning political show, challenger Joe Garcia (D) and incumbent Mario Diaz-Balart (R), had an animated debate on issues ranging from the economic rescue package and Iraq, to Cuba policy and the Colombia FTA. Both are running for the seat in the U.S. House of Representatives representing Florida's 25th district, which encompasses the western portion of Miami-Dade County, including the Everglades National Park. This heated race is a perfect example of what's happening throughout the U.S. - as the country becomes less hard-line Republican or Democrat, more and more "stronghold" districts and states shift into "tossup" territory. Southern Florida, previously considered a solid Cuban-American and Republican area, is changing due to changes in demographics and largely in response to the way the economic crisis has affected this state in particular. Joe Garcia painted Diaz-Balart's vote against the first economic rescue bill as "too little too late" after having had a history of voting with President Bush on all the bills that led to this current economic downturn, siding with "special interests". And Mario Diaz-Balart attempted to paint Joe was a well-versed man with no specific solutions...sound familiar? Yes, much like the Presidential race. On the issues:

On the economy: Mario voted against the rescue bill because he didn't want to give the banks a "blank check", to which Joe responded that he already had - voting to give banks the blank checks through deregulation and by allowing bills to pass that increased credit card interest rates up to 29%. Joe pointed out that while the rescue bill needed safeguards to keep people in their homes, the danger lay in doing nothing, and that he would have voted for the bill to take action to save people in this crisis.

On healthcare: Mario is against nationalized healthcare and proposed to leave insurance decisions in the hands of individuals. His proposal would be to allow for inter-state competition of health care plans. Joe on the other hand, supports Sen. Obama's plan to create a national system of health care. Unlike Mr. Diaz-Balart, Mr. Garcia pointed out the lack of health care in the Hispanic community in particular, and the importance of lowering costs and increasing competition.

On Cuba: Both candidates are firmly against participating in any diplomatic meeting with the Castro brothers, however, Mr. Garcia is for lifting the travel ban on families, and decreasing the restrictions on remittances to Cuba. Mr. Diaz-Balart is firmly against holding talks or contact with Cuba and against fully lifting the travel ban.

On Colombia: Both candidates are for the passage of the FTA. Mr. Diaz Balart noted that President Uribe has been incredibly successful at decreasing the murders of labor leaders and improving security in the country.

Weekly Update: The Economy and Immigration Reform

Given the current state of the U.S. economy, it surprises me that not more is said about immigration on all the major news networks. I see a silver lining during this economic crisis for immigration reform, thinking back to a story in the CQ by Karoun Demirjian, "Immigration: The Jobs Factor." While some might feel that opposition to comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) might become more intense during an economic crisis, there is reason to believe that opposition could actually lose momentum. Politically, the economic crisis might actually provide some cover for CIR negotiations, and Members of Congress might have more leeway to discuss the issue thanks to the focus on the economy.

Additionally, immigration has been an issue of top concern among Hispanics. What I hear from many Hispanic voters who call in to Spanish language radio or tv shows and in my community is that they are skeptical as to whether either candidate will deliver on CIR. Unlike McCain, who has abandoned the Hispanic community on immigration, Obama has been able to make it clear to Hispanics that he is committed to passing CIR, which has largely led to his over 30 point lead among this demographic. However, were he to win this election, I think he would just as easily lose this demographic if he did not deliver on this promise. It's also important to remember that members of Congress up for reelection in 2010 have much more to lose by putting off immigration reform. Polling indicates that voters place the blame of the broken immigration system on Congress by an overwhelming majority. Therefore, taking on the issue would change the perception of a do-nothing Congress.

Tthe mantra that emerged out of the failure of last summer's congressional immigration plan - "secure the borders first" - is losing its momentum. With the current economic crisis leading to the number of undocumented immigrants declining, it's becoming clear that the "magnet" of undocumented immigration is being eliminated. Which gives those of us for CIR an opening to discuss, what comes next?

The next President will have to recognize the challenges ahead:

1) Building a large enough coalition in Congress.
Even with the expected Democratic gains in both chambers, he will have to work with Members from the anti-immigrant House Immigration Reform Caucus, which backs enforcement-only, as well as with Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the "Blue Dog" Caucus.

2) Growing administrative challenges. As stated by Marshall Fitz, Director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, "It's not clear how much change Sen. McCain could make within DHS, because certainly he would be in a very politically compromised position, given where his party is on these issues." But that's not to say Sen. Obama will have complete flexibility in regards to halting or limiting enforcement measures.

3) The next White House will inherit a badly overburdened immigration court system.

4) Reform costs money. At a time when federal revenue will be contracting on a significant scale. That makes it, in turn, all the more incumbent on either McCain or Obama to forge a renewed political consensus behind such a plan.

Given the candidates' current proposals on immigration, only Sen. Barack Obama would be able to utilize the economic and policy landscape to build new coalitions in Congress and improve the White House Executive management of immigration policies. Sen.McCain has proven that he is unwilling to act in ways contrary to his party, which remains vocally anti-immigrant. So what could a new president do? - He should be proactive, not reactive on this issue:

1) The slowing economy helps prove that the it's not "enforcement only" that has led to a decrease in illegal immigration, "it's the economy stupid!", thus relieving some pressure from this explosive issue, which allows CIR proponents to argue that now is the time to act to take control of the system - before the situation becomes more critical.

2) Develop an economic narrative, and revive the strong coalition of business, community, religious, and academic groups to advocate in Congress. As noted in the piece, businesses have suffered under the "enforcement only" strategy:

As small-business credit seizes up and unemployment increases, going after businesses providing jobs....is not playing well among most constituencies, apart from hard-line immigration opponents. Indeed, lobbyists and managers in other potentially vulnerable companies - such as high-tech concerns and seasonal industries - are already contending that they need access to specialized non-U.S. workers now more than ever.

I would add that under the current administration it's the unscrupulous employers who have been provided "amnesty". Passage of CIR under a new administration would call for interior enforcement as well as border enforcement, while at the same time providing adequate protection to workers and families. Not just immigrant workers would benefit from wage and labor safeguards under CIR - all businesses and workers would benefit.

Others argue that the undocumented drive wages down - the next president should make those individuals understand that by bringing the undocumented out of the shadows we will push wages up, and by making sure they become full-fledged members of our society and economy at a time of economic downturn, we will add revenue to our tax base and to our communities. As illegal aliens become documented, they will earn more and spend more.

We found an interesting piece of information during NDN's latest poll on immigration: There is a positive view of immigrants among the general population, which is conducive to passing immigration reform - 68-69 percent of voters in four battleground states believe that illegal immigrants come to this country to "get a job and a better life", as opposed to the 10-12 percent who believe they come to "take advantage" of our public programs, and 60 percent believe that immigrants take "jobs no one else wants" as opposed to "taking American jobs." And yet, when they are asked whether undocumented immigrants help or hurt the economy, 40-47 percent believe they "hurt the economy by driving wages down." In Nevada, where immigrants comprise a significant percentage of major sectors like construction and services, 47 percent of those polled believe they hurt the economy, while 39 believe they help.

However, Hispanics "get" the economic argument. Among Hispanic voters polled in Nevada for example, 64 percent believe illegal immigrants help the economy, while only 22 percent think that they push wages down.

During such a dramatic economic downturn, CIR will help improve the rights and wages of all workers. Legalization of the undocumented will push wages up and to add to our tax base and it will help businesses by providing a more secure labor force and larger consumer base, which provides common ground with which to join different Congressional and other factions on the side of CIR.

3) Look to the future. Immigration reform would require funding; the next President will have to make Congress and the American people understand that this is an investment in the country's future. While the decrease in illegal immigration might make reform seem less urgent, there is an urgency to reform our broken immigration system, including the visa and temporary worker systems, and deal with future flow. The next president needs to make this clear at a time of economic crisis:

"People see those visas, incorrectly, as enabling immigrant workers to compete with American workers. We'd like to see an administration move forward. Congress is always reactive, instead of looking down the pike, and looking at the demographics of our country. When the economy comes back, we're going to need these workers even more."

4) Modify and deal with backlogs and enforcement measures through executive branch appointments and administrative rulings. The next president will have this ability, which is another reason why there is so much at stake for immigration reform in this election.

5) Work with other countries. As stated in the Democratic Party Platform on immigration, it will be necessary for the next president to work with immigrant-sending nations in order to address the conditions that cause immigration in the first place.

In conclusion, immigration Reform can be repackaged as an item in a broader economic agenda that helps relieve some of the downward pressure on U.S. wages and benefits. Today, undocumenteds account for 5% of the total workforce in the United States. Bringing them all the minimum wage, the ability to join a labor union and other protections guaranteed to all American workers will help remove some of the downward pressure on the low end of the income scale, making CIR a strong companion to the Democratic Caucus's successful effort to raise the minimum wage early in the 110th Congress.

Crazy McCain Lady is Back

Earlier this week I wrote about how disturbing it is to see the ignorance and hate speech that is expressed at some of Sen. McCain's rallies. Luckily, we can count on Saturday Night Live to show how extremely ridiculous such ideas are without insulting anyone, yet getting the point across that there is no place for ideas like these in our society.

Candidates Woo Largest Spanish-speaking Audience in the Country, Part II

More on John McCain's interview with Univision anchor, Jorge Ramos. Univision has the largest Spanish-language audience in the U.S.

ON LATIN AMERICA- When asked about the prospect of Russia providing Venezuela with training and nuclear arms, and whether he would rule out U.S. military intervention in Venezuela, Sen. McCain responded that he definitely would (keep in mind all those Florida voters who are originally from Venezuela or still have family and ties to the country). Sen. McCain stated his priorities regarding Latin America as: 1) U.S. independence from Venezuelan oil, as there is evidence that Venezuela is helping aid the FARC in Colombia, and 2) passage of a Free Trade Agreement with Colombia.

Last weekend, Barack Obama and Joe Biden appeared with Jorge Ramos on Al Punto. By contrast, when asked about Latin America, Sen. Obama appeared to understand that the United States' relationship with the region has so much more at stake than merely trade agreements and foreign aid, "Trade agreements cannot serve as a substitute to sensible policy...It's not about just sending money [to the region] and forgetting about it...If this hollow policy continues, our children will be in danger...we should be in contact at this critical time." Sen. Biden noted, "..this Administration has no policy towards Russia, or towards Latin America for that matter."

ON OTHER ISSUES - On immigration, Barack Obama said during his interview with Ramos that in order to truly secure the border, we also need to go after unscrupulous employers and to provide legalization to all the undocumented in order to bring them out of the shadows. On the election:

JR: Will Hispanics decide this election? What do you think of Latino voters?
BO: "...The states with the largest Hispanic populations will certainly have a decisive role during this election....Hispanics could be the largest group of voters in New Mexico....I do think Hispanics are going to turn out and vote because they will decide whether they want to continue 8 years of failed policies or not...so I have no doubt that this election will turn out record numbers of Latinos and voters in general."
JR: So will Hispanics decide this election?
JB: In some states, like Florida, yes....in my state for example, small state of Delaware, has among the largest rates of growth of states on the east coast, the population has increased 25% over the last 17 years, and a full quarter of that growth is comprised of Hispanics in my state.

Jorge Ramos also posed a few tough questions to Sen. McCain:

JR: Governor Palin, she said Sen. Obama worked from an ex-terrorist's living room. But she works for the campaign right? So I take it she had your approval to say those things, are you suggesting that [Sen. Obama] tolerates terrorism?
JM: No. We just believe the American people should know more about this relationship.

**Sarah Palin was scheduled to appear with John McCain, but she reportedly had a scheduling conflict. Sen. McCain did say that she will be on Al Punto soon.

Ad Wars: En Español

Over the last few weeks, we have been commenting on how both Presidential candidates are battling it out to win over Hispanic voters by spending record sums on Spanish language advertising on issues of importance to this demographic, such as immigration, health care, and taxes.  The Washington Times has picked up on the brutal ad war and wrote about it in this piece by Stephen Dinan.

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