- Associated Press - Thursday, October 1, 2015

NEW YORK (AP) - Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign is planning a major push to organize Latino voters ahead of the Nevada caucuses and early primary contests in Texas, Florida and Colorado, all with an eye toward connecting with Hispanics in the 2016 election.

The Democratic presidential candidate will be in South Florida on Friday and will hold campaign events this month focused on Hispanic voters in San Antonio and Las Vegas. Her campaign will use the first Democratic presidential debate, Oct. 13 in Las Vegas, and a GOP debate Oct. 28 in Boulder, Colorado, to organize house parties geared at garnering support among Hispanics.

Clinton’s pitch, called Latinos for Hillary, will also extend to Hispanic lawmakers and elected officials, and will include an address next week to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s annual meeting in Washington.

“She’s shown a deep commitment to the issues that Hispanics care about over a long period of time. This isn’t somebody who showed up, decided to run for president and then a lightbulb came on and she decided to reach out to the Hispanic community,” said Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, who will campaign for Clinton in Nevada following the Oct. 13 debate in Las Vegas.

Clinton, who will sit with Telemundo for an interview Friday in Miami, fared well among Latino voters during her unsuccessful primary campaign against Barack Obama in 2008. Hispanic voters gave Obama a significant edge against Republican Mitt Romney in the 2012 elections.

This time, Latinos are poised to play a more prominent role in the primaries as well, beginning in Nevada, which follows Iowa and New Hampshire on the calendar. After that, Hispanics are expected to be a key constituency in March contests in Texas, Virginia, Colorado and Florida.

The so-called Super Tuesday states and other contests in March could play a more prominent role in a competitive primary against Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and, potentially, Vice President Joe Biden. Sanders has erased Clinton’s early advantage in Iowa and New Hampshire, setting the stage for a drawn-out primary.

Clinton unveiled her immigration policy during a May campaign stop in Las Vegas, where she told high school students that any immigration legislation must include a path to “full and equal citizenship.” She has defended Obama’s use of executive actions to shield millions of immigrants from deportation and said she would go further if Congress fails to act.

The campaign views immigration as a major policy contrast against the Republican field, which has been marked by businessman Donald Trump’s summertime characterization of Mexican immigrants as rapists and drug dealers and by candidates using the term “anchor babies.” The reference to children who gain citizenship when born in the United States to noncitizen parents is considered an insult by many Latinos.

That message has been amplified in social media. Clinton’s team noted footage of her response to Trump’s comments during a speech to the National Council of La Raza - Clinton said, “basta,” or “enough” in Spanish - became the campaign’s most popular video, with nearly 8.5 million views.

Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., a Clinton supporter, said the immigration discussion among the Republican candidates has helped Clinton with Hispanic voters. “There’s no question there’s a clear line, night and day, between Hillary Clinton and all of the other candidates,” he said.


Follow Ken Thomas on Twitter: https://twitter.com/kthomasDC

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