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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Obama, conservatives woo Florida's Hispanic vote as deciding factor in 2012



It's 3:01 a.m. and the woman in the TV ad wakes, her face a portrait of worry. She rolls over in bed as thunder crashes outside. The screen flashes to her family photograph, then President Barack Obama.


"Debo estar preocupada acerca de nuestros trabajos, nuestro hogar," she narrates in Spanish. "I'm worried, I guess," goes the English version of the same ad. "About our jobs, our home."

The woman tells how she voted for Obama "because he spoke beautifully. But since then, things have gone from bad to much worse."

The ominous looking ad airing in Tampa, Miami and Orlando last month marked the opening shot in what will be a fierce battle for Florida's Hispanic voters, an exploding force that could determine whether Obama gets re-elected.

Less than a week later, the Democratic National Committee scrambled to put its Spanish-language spot up in Florida, warning viewers about "ads that pretend to care about our children" while condemning Republicans for trying to change Medicare and protect tax cuts for the rich.

And that was quickly followed by ads on Spanish-language radio in Miami, Orlando and Tampa that were paid for by the Republican National Committee and charged Obama with failing to improve the economy while growing the debt.

The breathless dash comes well before the 2012 election, but there is no time to wait.

Hispanics are the country's fastest-growing demographic, and Republicans and Democrats are jumping in to harness the vast potential. Florida says it all: Hispanic voters are predicted to top 1.6 million in 2012, a 34 percent increase in four years.

"The Hispanic vote is absolutely up for grabs and few places is that more true than Florida," said Evan Bacalao, senior director of civic engagement for the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, which projects Hispanics will make up about 18 percent of the overall vote in the state.

(read the full story here, see the ads below)

[Last modified: Saturday, August 6, 2011 5:22pm]


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