President Barack Obama speaks Spanish – if only un poco – in television and radio ads targeting Spanish-speaking voters that his campaign rolled out in Florida on Wednesday.
“Soy Barack Obama, y apruebo este mensaje,” he says in a twist on the political refrain “I approve of this message” in one video spot on his website that features a Latina campaign volunteer from Orlando, Lynnette Acosta.
The ads are part of a national effort candidate Obama launched Wednesday to court the Latino vote.
He did very well with Hispanic voters in the election of 2008 – and will need their support again this fall, says Nova Southeastern University political science professor Charles Zelden.
“But the president can’t take the vote for granted. Latinos like everyone else have jobs, have mortgages, the economy’s an issue,” he said. “Plus, they also want to be known that they’re not being taken advantage of.”
Obama’s presumed Republican rival in the general election, Mitt Romney, is also reaching out to Latino voters.
On Monday the Republican National Committee unveiled its Hispanic outreach program, focusing on Latino voters here in Florida, as well as Nevada, Colorado and three other states.
The president is fresh off a visit to Latin America, where he took part in the Summit of the Americas in Colombia. Some leaders criticized him for refusing to abandon a drug war that has claimed tens of thousands of lives, primarily in Mexico.
Florida Republican Congressman Connie Mack IV, who is running for the Senate this year, says Obama is all wrong when it comes to Latin American issues.
“I think we have a president that doesn't understand the power of leadership, especially in Latin America, and so we saw a lot of issues that frankly should have never been issues at all as part of the summit,” Mack said.