Thursday, September 13, 2007

Democrats' Spanish-language debate draws in Hispanic viewers in US

This is interesting. The Democratic party is appearing much more open to the undocumented than the Republican Party. I quote: "But the candidates promised to push for a comprehensive immigration law that includes a path to citizenship for the 12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. during their first year in office." Wonder how much of this is simply rhetoric or whether they will really walk the talk. -Angela

Democrats' Spanish-language debate draws in Hispanic viewers in US

The Associated Press
Monday, September 10, 2007

The Democratic presidential candidates who attended Univision's landmark Spanish-language presidential forum delivered more symbolism than substance ’Äî but that symbolism will likely weigh heavily in next year's election as viewership of the forum showed.

The debate Sunday night was watched by 4.6 million people , according to ratings from Nielsen Media Research, with most of the viewers coming from the 44 million Hispanics in the United States.

That compared to an average of 4.3 million viewers for earlier presidential debates held this year on ABC, CNN, FOX News Channel and MSNBC ’Äî and Univision was facing competition from the National Football League's opening weekend.

Alex Correa, a University of Miami senior, said the debate was "an amazing experience as a student and as a Hispanic." A Republican, he said he would not rule out voting for a Democrat who puts more focus on Latin American policy and has a clear vision for solving the situation in Iraq.

Correa and other Hispanics said Monday that it would take more than one debate to help them choose among the candidates, but the fact that the candidates showed up at all and were willing to answer questions targeted toward Hispanics went a long way.

Beyond the ratings, the Univision forum provided an opportunity for the Democrats to cement their party as the pro-immigrant party.

All seven of the candidates who attended, including Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, acknowledged the perception of many Hispanics and others that the debate over illegal immigration has veered into anti-Hispanic rhetoric--something that is often questioned in the more conservative English-language media. And they promised to combat it.

"Does this help the Democratic Party look more friendly to Hispanics? Definitely so," said University of Miami political science professor George Gonzalez.

Still, he noted that the candidates were short on specifics. And on some questions they seemed unprepared for their audience. Clinton, Obama and Dodd fell back on lines about their support for border security when asked why they voted in favor of building a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border and not along the U.S.-Canadian border. Richardson sidestepped a question about whether Spanish should be a second national language. John Edwards failed to answer the question about whether illegal immigrants were necessary to the U.S. economy.

But the candidates promised to push for a comprehensive immigration law that includes a path to citizenship for the 12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. during their first year in office, again separating themselves from the Republican candidates who have generally favored border security measures first, and then, down the road a plan to deal with the illegal immigrants still in the country.

"It's a continuing of a theme that the Democrats are different on legalization and a path to citizenship," said Louis Desipio, a University of California, Irvine political science professor who specializes in the U.S. Hispanic community.

At the close of Sunday's debate, Univision co-anchors and moderators Jorge Ramos and Maria Elena Salinas offered a renewed on-air plea to Republicans to participate in a similar forum.

"We have absolute journalistic independence, and our invitation stands to candidates of the Republican Party," Ramos said.

If the Republican candidates refuse the offer, they will help complete the unraveling of the gains made by President George W. Bush and Karl Rove in the past two elections to tap into the Hispanic community, Gonzalez and DeSipio predicted. Bush won 40 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2004, a Republican presidential record, by tapping into many Hispanics' conservative values and pushing for immigration reform.

And that could cost them the election in key swing states such as Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado, where the Hispanic populations are fast-growing.

Correa said he understands Republicans have to appeal to their core base but agreed most Hispanics will take the Republican candidates' decision not to participate in a Univision primary debate as a snub, even if the eventual nominee agrees to appear in one before the general election.

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