- The Washington Times - Friday, February 1, 2008

LOS ANGELES — The Democratic White House hopefuls are aggressively courting the growing Hispanic populations in several Super Tuesday states — flooding the Spanish-language airwaves with ads and personally visiting Hispanic enclaves while reaching out to community leaders.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, with an advantage among these voters who will influence the Democratic nomination, is running ads titled “Nuestra Amiga,” or “our friend,” and has touted the economy under her husband’s administration during stops in Hispanic neighborhoods in the West.

Her ads outline problems with health care and the economy and say under Mrs. Clinton, “we will have a better life.”

“She respects our culture and understands the problems that affect our community,” a narrator says in Spanish. “Hillary is our friend and will help us.”

She captured about two-thirds of Hispanics during the Nevada caucus and remains strong with them in polls of Feb. 5 states, especially California, where Hispanic voters make up about 20 percent of the electorate.

Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, trying to make up ground, was buoyed by some endorsements this week and he also started running Spanish-language ads. Dozens of Hispanic Obama supporters gathered outside last night’s Hollywood debate chanted “Si se puede,” the old United Farm Workers rally cry for “Yes we can” that has become an Obama slogan.

His ads, called “El Nos Entiende,” or “He Understands Us,” feature Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez of Illinois.

“We know what it feels like being used as a scapegoat just because of our background and last name,” Mr. Gutierrez says in the ads. “And no one understands this better than Barack Obama.”

The ads highlight Mr. Obama’s work as a community organizer and point out he has worked for immigration reform in the Senate. The ads close with Mr. Obama, in Spanish, saying he approves the message. Mrs. Clinton’s ads include that disclaimer in English.

Both candidates have been reaching out to target the Hispanic voters in California, New York, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Illinois and New Jersey. They will be a major factor in the primaries next week.

Simon Rosenberg of the New Democratic Network said the role of Hispanic voters is “unprecedented” and this year, “We will see the Hispanic community having a bigger voice in the Democratic nominating process than any other year.”

Mr. Rosenberg, a one-time Bill Clinton aide, said the Clinton campaign has made Hispanic outreach a priority, and already is boosted because among Hispanic voters. “There’s a remembrance that things were good under the Clintons,” he said.

It is a challenge for Mr. Obama because black politicians have historically had a tougher time wooing Hispanic voters. Mr. Obama won a quarter of Hispanic voters in his losing Nevada caucus effort and delayed before reaching out to the group, analysts said.

Obama advisers said the campaign is pursuing Hispanic voters by “advertising heavily” in the Los Angeles area and Arizona and will “do all we can” to get out the Obama message.

“A lot of this is education. They are not as familiar with Senator Obama as they are with Senator Clinton,” said campaign manager David Plouffe.

But Mr. Obama won a new endorsement this week from Rep. Raul M. Grijalva of Arizona, and earlier this week was backed by Rep. Xavier Becerra of California, both of whom may shore up his strength with Hispanics.

Donald Lambro contributed to this report.

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