Do More Spanish-Language Ads Mean More Votes for Romney?

PHOTO: This undated frame grab taken from AP video shows a control room at television station WDBJ7 in Roanoke, Va.

AP Photo

Television ads are one of the most expensive and ubiquitous tools at a presidential campaign's disposal. That's because they're critical to trying to sway the ever-shrinking, yet coveted, group of undecided voters. Unfortunately, if you live in one of the handful of states that are up for grabs, that means you can probably recite most of them by memory. But that's what happens when more than $500 million has been pumped into political TV advertising in this election, so far.

Naturally, the same drama is being played out on Spanish-language TV, albeit with a smaller cache of cash (only 4.57 percent of all political ads are in Spanish). These ads are often specifically tailored to a Spanish-speaking Latino audience and are considered an effective way for a candidate to make inroads with Latino voters.

But the question remains: are campaigns getting bang for their buck?

Mitt Romney's campaign has said for weeks that a massive post-convention ad-spending blitz on Spanish-language airwaves would help it reverse its poor standing with Latino voters.

After letting President Obama and his allies run virtually uncontested on Spanish-language TV for the better part of a year, Romney and his friends have indeed worked to close that gap.

Romney's campaign ran 2,169 Spanish-language ads between mid-April and the end of August, but that number has skyrocketed to 2,855 ads on the air in the first 23 days of September, according to Kantar Media.

While $7.1 million has been spent on behalf of Obama, $3.2 million has been spent on behalf of Romney in ten states that have high Latino populations, according to a new analysis by Kantar Media's Campaign Media Analysis Group and the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

That's a big shift, considering that Obama and his allies (outside groups and super PACs) were outspending Romney's team nationwide in Spanish by a margin of 12-1 as recently as late August.

So if ad spending is any indication, Romney is making a more concerted push for Latino voters in the final days of the campaign. But that hasn't necessarily translated into more Latino support.

A Latino Decisions/impreMedia tracking poll released Monday showed Obama leading Romney 73-21 percent among Latino registered voters, the president's largest margin yet in the six-week-long survey. The margin, however, is narrower among Latino voters in battleground states, who favor the president 61-33 percent.

Analysts from Latino Decisions suggested that despite better looking numbers in battleground states, it's still tough sledding for Romney to peel away enough support from Obama to win.

"While Republicans had hoped the weak economy would provide an opening to win over Latinos, almost three-fourths of Latinos say they have more confidence in Obama to fix the economy. Romney's infamous comments about the '47 percent' are clearly hurting him among Latinos. He appears out of touch with the average working class family," said Matt Barreto of Latino Decisions.

Romney's ability to make his push for Latino votes a success has long been hampered by Team Obama's efforts to paint him as an unacceptable candidate, attacking his hard-line stance on immigration and desire to cut some social programs.

Obama was able to drive that message home virtually uncontested all spring and summer. And despite Romney's surge, the president and his allies are still spending more on Spanish-language TV in battleground states.

The president and his supporters are spending twice as much as Romney's team in Florida, three-and-a-half times as much in Colorado, and nearly three times as much in Nevada, all despite being outspent in English.

The critical Orlando market -- where the rapidly-growing, Democrat-leaning Puerto-Rican population is fast becoming a political force that rivals right-leaning Cuban-Americans in Miami -- provides an interesting test case.

Both Romney and Obama have recently run spots there that feature prominent figures in the community (Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuño speaking for Romney and Obama touting his appointment of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor).

But spending for Obama has totaled $1.5 million compared to just $306,000 for Romney, who has had the most ads air in the Cuban-American bastion of Miami.

The reality is that truly undecided Latino voters -- aka those who could be persuaded by ads -- are few in number; only 6 percent according to Latino Decisions. And it will certainly take more than Spanish-language ads to convince them, especially for the millions who prefer to get their political information in English. But judging from the numbers, the amount of money spent by campaigns and outside groups on Spanish-language ads will like continue to rise as Election Day nears. But with the election this close, Romney and Obama are doing everything they can to hit the right note en Español.

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