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Republicans involved in the presidential campaign have taken notice.

“We have clearly identified this as being a major vulnerability for the Obama campaign,” said one operative who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk about campaign strategy. “Hispanics, particularly those located in South Florida, recognize that any kind of negotiations with individuals like Hugo Chavez, who is fueling hatred of our country and terrorism south of the border, is unacceptable.

“Barack Obama will have a near-impossible time explaining this to Hispanic voters.”

Republicans say the anti-Chavez strategy is tried and true - in Mexico.

In that country’s 2006 presidential election Mr. Calderon repeatedly tied his opponent, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, to Mr. Chavez. Mexico’s elections regulator ruled that the ads were too aggressive and had to be taken off the air, but analysts said the association helped flip the election. Mr. Calderon won by a slim margin.

Democrats ridiculed Republicans for looking to the Mexican election for inspiration, saying they should be looking instead to solve American voters’ issues.

Mr. Cardenas said the sailing isn’t smooth for Mr. McCain, either, saying “the GOP has a strong head wind there as well.”

Mr. Cardenas, who was born in Cuba, said it will be “interesting to see not just polling numbers but the turnout.”

He noted that the Republican Party’s “best gains have been with Hispanic evangelicals who do vote in high numbers and Hispanic military families and small business groups.”

If Nov. 4 turnout is low, Mr. McCain and other Republican candidates generally will do well with Hispanics, Mr. Cardenas predicted.

“If the turnout is high, then Obama should have the advantage,” he said. “We will see.”

cRalph Z. Hallow contributed to this report.