- The Washington Times - Monday, November 1, 2004

President Bush is positioned to reach his goal of winning more than 40 percent of Hispanic voters in tomorrow’s election, a new poll by a Republican-leaning Hispanic group shows.

But another survey, taken for the Miami Herald by pollster John Zogby, found Democratic Sen. John Kerry with 61 percent support among Hispanic voters and Mr. Bush with 33 percent.

With Hispanics the largest and fastest-growing minority group in the nation, that margin could make the difference in the election, especially in Florida, the biggest electoral battleground.

Both parties have paid extra attention to Hispanic voters this year, spending a record amount of money on Spanish-language commercials and English advertising aimed at Hispanics.

“It seems very likely that President Bush is going to do well among Hispanic voters, probably better than he did last election,” said pollster Michael McKenna.

He conducted a poll late last week for the Republican-leaning Hispanic Alliance for Progress that found Mr. Bush with 42 percent support among 800 registered Hispanic voters, two percentage points behind Mr. Kerry.

Exit polls in 2000 showed that Mr. Bush won 35 percent support among Hispanic voters, while Democrat Al Gore won 63 percent. The Bush campaign had set a goal of gaining 40 percent Hispanic support this year.

Recent polls for news organizations show that the trend among Hispanic voters is much closer to Mr. Zogby’s survey, also done late last week, with Mr. Kerry consistently polling about 60 percent and Mr. Bush polling in the low- to mid-30 percent range, far below the Republican Party’s goal.

“What this means is that Kerry has done what Gore did,” Mr. Zogby told the Herald, adding that population growth among Hispanics translates to even more votes for the Democrat this year than in 2000.

Mr. McKenna said the differences between the two polls stem from who the polls count as Hispanic. Rather than survey only self-identified Hispanics, his poll took a list of registered voters with Hispanic surnames who had voted in the past two elections, then asked them their ethnicity. He eliminated respondents who were of non-Hispanic origin.

“If you mean people who identified themselves as Hispanic, then I imagine Bush gets 20 percent of people, maybe 30 percent. But if you mean people who we considered to be Hispanic, then Bush gets 40 percent of that vote,” he said.

Hispanic voters have been the subject of a record advertising appeal from both parties this year — more than $12 million, said Adam J. Segal, director of the Hispanic Voter Project at Johns Hopkins University.

He said the Bush campaign is spending twice what it did on Hispanic voters in 2000, while Mr. Kerry, the Democratic National Committee and the New Democrat Network, which has made Hispanic voters its special project this year, have together spent four to five times as much as Democrats did in 2000.

He said he will be watching the Florida exit polls to see whether Democrats have any success with their new message targeted to Cuban-American voters.

“If the Democrats are able to pick up 1 or 2 percent of the Cuban vote above what Gore got in 2000, maybe even more, that could end up influencing the entire outcome in the race,” Mr. Segal said.

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