Viva Iowa

Though the state's Latino population makes up less than 2 percent of its voters, the Bush campaign is wooing Iowa Hispanics.

Published October 25, 1999 9:17AM (EDT)

Ever since Texas Gov. George W. Bush received nearly half of the state's Latino vote in his landslide reelection victory in 1998, he has been heralded as the answer to the Republican Party's poor showing among the nation's burgeoning Latino voters. While Latinos in California and New York voted overwhelmingly Democratic, both Bush and his brother Jeb in Florida were elected with strong Latino support. Bush's strength among the Latino community has been seen as one of his most potent political weapons, which could make Bush competitive in states with increasing Latino electoral power. States like California, Illinois and ... Iowa?

That's right, Iowa. As the Bush campaign released its first four television spots, which will run in the presidential proving grounds of Iowa and New Hampshire, Team Bush has also released a 60-second Spanish-language radio spot which will run in the Hawkeye State.

"Once again, the spotlight is on Iowa. And for the first time it's shining on the Latino community," the ad says. "We're voters too, and George W. Bush believes that all Iowans should help elect a President ... In this presidential election you will see a fresh start, the beginning of a new day for Latinos."

Latino voters have been a growing political force over the last decade, but are still concentrated in big prize states like California, Texas, Florida, Illinois and New York. Latinos comprise nearly 15 percent of the total electorate in California, for example, but they are a paltry 2 percent of the Iowa electorate.

"There's been a tremendous outreach (to the Latino community)," media adviser Stuart Stevens told the Associated Press. "You're not going to see a campaign where we're running a different campaign on the ground than on the air." Bush advisors refused to reveal how much they spent on the ads or the media buy.

Although the Bush ads may reach a small group of actual voters, by unveiling a Spanish language ad in the first round of political advertising, Bush will get national attention for his campaign's efforts at reaching out to the Latino community right out of the box.

Latino voting numbers have been on the rise nationally, but have been voting overwhelmingly Democratic. Political gurus, Democrat and Republican alike, have made Latino outreach a central part of their campaign strategies in states with booming Latino populations like New York, Texas and California.

According to U.S. Census Bureau data, the Latino population in the United States has increased by more than 35 percent over the last decade alone. There are currently more than 30 million Latinos in the United States.

By Anthony York

Anthony York is Salon's Washington correspondent.

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2000 Elections George W. Bush Immigration