President Obama's latest Spanish-language television advertisement contains a message that you typically don't see in political ads on mainstream media: register to vote.
The president needs high turnout from Latinos in order to win in key battleground states like Colorado and Florida. A record 12.2 million Latinos are projected to vote in November, up 26 percent from 2008, and Obama leads Romney among Latinos by a whopping 45 percentage points, according to the latest numbers from Latino Decisions.
Considering that, you would think that Obama would not need to make such a message explicit. But here is the last line from his latest TV ad, which is airing in Colorado, Florida, Nevada, Ohio, and Virginia.
"Regístrate hoy, para que Romney no nos cierre esas puertas. (Register today to make sure Romney doesn't shut these doors)."
The radio version contains an even more detailed message:
"Regístrate a votar antes del 9 de octubre. Visita votemostodos.org, votemostodos.org. Y juntos defendamos nuestro futuro. ("Register to vote before October 9th [when registration officially ends]. Visit votemostodos.org, votemostodos.org. And together, let's defend our future)."
So, why is the Obama campaign putting voter registration info into its Spanish-language ads?
Despite the anticipated record Latino turnout, there are millions more Latinos who could vote on Nov. 6, but are likely to stay at home. Up to 23 million Latinos will be eligible to vote on Election Day, according to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO). That's almost 11 million more than are actually expected to vote.
With Obama's high level of Latino support, boosting turnout could make the difference between winning and losing since Romney's backing mainly comes from non-Hispanic white voters. It's unlikely that either campaign could convince a majority of those 11 million to come out and vote. But in a close election, persuading even a small portion to register to vote could affect the result.
Registering and turning out voters in the Latino community has proven to be uniquely difficult. In 2008, 65 percent of non-Latino U.S. citizens showed up to vote, but only 50 percent of Latino U.S. citizens did so, according to NALEO. Seventy-two percent of non-Latino citizens were registered to vote four years ago, compared to 59 percent of Latinos.
And the Obama campaign wants to take the extra step of making sure that non-registered Latinos register as Democrats, especially at a time when the Romney campaign has begun to make a late, yet aggressive push to peel away Latino support from the president with its own battery of Spanish-language advertising.
The core of the ad focuses on education, a key issue that typically receives less attention than one like immigration. Access to higher education, rising tuition costs, and high drop-out rates have become pressing concerns for the community, as well as for younger people who tend to vote less frequently than middle-aged and elderly folks. With Romney appearing at NBC's "Education Nation" summit this week, the Obama campaign attacked Romney's austere approach to college tuition assistance, especially his remark to an Ohio student to shop around for affordable tuition rates.
"President Romney... What would that mean?" the ad says in Spanish. "For our kids, a steeper climb to college."
The Romney campaign responded, blaming the president's policies for the sputtering economy that has made it tough for recent college graduates to find employment and pay off student loans.
"Young Americans deserve better. Mitt Romney has a plan to jumpstart the economy and ensure that young Americans have the same opportunity to find work and live the American Dream as previous generations," said Romney spokesperson Yohana de la Torre.