Biden Group Jumpstarts Midterm Campaign With Latino Swing State Ad Blitz

With critical midterm elections looming in November and control of both houses of Congress at stake, a top outside group advocating for President Joe Biden's policies is out with ads aimed at informing Latino voters in key swing states of what he has accomplished during his first year in office.

Building Back Together, a 501(c)(4) started by alumni of the Obama administration, is spending nearly $1 million in bilingual ads across TV, radio, and digital platforms in key states like Arizona, Nevada, Florida, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Georgia.

"Building Back Together is working hard to ensure Latino families know what President Biden has delivered, from taking on the pandemic and helping small businesses keep their doors open, to jumpstarting the economic recovery and working to lower prices for families," chief strategy officer Mayra Macias told Newsweek.

The group, which launched with a stated focus on engaging Latino voters year-round with an "always on" philosophy, said in 2022 it's "going on offense by investing early and consistently to reach Latinos in a culturally competent way in battleground states."

The ads are a mix of visual storytelling with a personal touch and simple and direct radio messaging.

In "Real Minds Changed," Luis Martinez, who started his Atlanta restaurant My Abuelas Food as a love letter to his island of Puerto Rico and his grandmothers who used to cook for him, says the pandemic hit two weeks after his restaurant opened, but he was denied financial assistance because he had defaulted on his student loans.

Martinez says in the ad that during the election he was skeptical Biden was the candidate who could lift the country out of the COVID crisis. But shortly after becoming president, Biden did away with the restrictions that had prevented him from receiving help, enabling him to receive funding immediately from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

"The weight was just lifted," Martinez says. "Because of Joe Biden, My Abuela's Food continues to be alive."

Conversely, ads titled "One Year With Biden," tailored to Florida and Wisconsin radio, include a narrator detailing the 6 million jobs gained in 2021, including 460,000 in Florida and 50,000 in Wisconsin, respectively. The ads also state that the Biden administration invested $2.7 million in Hispanic small businesses, and detail how much each state will receive for infrastructure improvements.

Chuck Rocha, one of the group's consultants and veteran of the senior ranks of Senator Bernie Sanders presidential campaign, who has criticized Democrats for waiting until weeks before election day before scrambling to haphazardly slap together a Latino voter plan, said he has been pleasantly surprised by the approach.

"This is the earliest I've done Spanish-language ads in my 30 years," Rocha told Newsweek.

But the focus on Latino voters from Biden allies comes at a time when Democrats are publicly and privately worrying about eroding Hispanic support nationally and in key states.

Catalist, a Democratic data firm, found last year that while Biden had the support of a majority of Latinos, Donald Trump improved eight points with Hispanics in 2020.

A much-shared November Wall Street Journal poll found that Latinos would not just be split among Trump and Biden in 2024, but also among Democrats and Republicans in the midterm elections.

However, a Gallup analysis, published at the end of January, found there was no "major shift" in party identification among Hispanics.

In a survey of 1,338 Latinos, 58% identified as Democrats or Democratic-leaning during the first six months of 2021, while that number dropped to 54% during the second half of 2021. Republican identification remained unchanged at 26%.

Still, Democrats know it is critical for them to make their case plainly and effectively to Latino voters with the high-stakes midterm elections drawing closer.

"The challenge here is not that Latinos are suddenly going to vote for Republicans, it's that they're going to stay home," Kristian Ramos, a Democratic consultant and Latino vote expert, told Newsweek.

"The opportunity is to get voters who may stay on the couch to come out and fight for concrete things the administration has done to make their life better," he added, "like creating more small businesses than any other, sending money directly to families, and creating jobs."

Building Back Together is focused on helping Democrats keep the Latino coalition intact. While erosion among Hispanics is not a motivating factor for them, it remains in the back of their minds, the group said. One thing they've done is to maintain budgeting flexibility in the event they have to do rapid response during an emergency that Latinos care about.

That occurred when the Cuba protests broke into public view and Republicans charged that the White House was doing nothing. The group modified its budgets to put together a series of ads that included a radio testimonial from one of the Cuban activists who met with Biden at the White House last summer, as a way of beating back misinformation.

While terrestrial radio is big in some cities like Miami and Milwaukee, digital radio like Pandora and Spotify rule, particularly among younger Latinos in many parts of the country, the group said.

The Latino electorate is spread across many mediums, they explained.

"With Puerto Ricans, you have to buy digital radio in Orlando or in Reading, Pennsylvania," Rocha said, "because terrestrial radio hasn't kept up with the explosion of the demographic that uses music on their phones to stay connected to their culture, which is an opportunity to reach them."

Rocha said it's all part of the concept that you only have one chance to make an initial impression, which is why a constant drum beat of positive news is needed.

But that drumbeat hasn't quickened enough for his liking ahead of November.

"That's what worries me," Rocha said. "We're the only ones telling a positive story, but we need congressional races to be doing it, too."

He suggested Democrats take a page from their opponent's playbook.

"We need to be speaking to Latinos early and often," he added. "That was the GOP strategy in places like Florida in 2020."

biden latino leaders
US President Joe Biden, with Vice President Kamala Harris (3rd L), speaks at the White House in Washington, DC, on August 3, 2021, during a meeting with Latino community leaders to discuss his economic agenda, immigration reform, and the need the need to protect the right to vote. JIM WATSON / AFP/Getty Images

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