With polls indicating that 60 percent of Florida’s Latino community does not know who he is, Rep. Patrick Murphy is hoping President Barack Obama's former Hispanic communications strategist can change the tide as he tries to unseat Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.
The Murphy campaign announced Thursday that it had hired Freddy Balsera to advise the candidate on Hispanic media, communications and outreach.
"We are committing a mistake when we automatically assume that because Marco Rubio is Hispanic and speaks Spanish that he will ultimately run away with the Latino vote," Balsera told Fox News Latino. "Patrick may not be Hispanic, but his values align much more with the Hispanic community's than Marco Rubio."
While Murphy has spoken to various Democratic Hispanic groups and appeared at least once on Univision, he is still viewed as lagging far behind Rubio – in both polls and in outreach – with the Hispanic community.
Rubio, who is Cuban-American, speaks fluent Spanish and regularly uses the language while on the stump and during interviews. He has a Spanish version of his campaign website and his office sends news releases in Spanish to the media. His campaign also has released two Spanish-language ads on the air, including one targeting Central Florida’s growing Puerto Rican population.
A Univision poll of Florida Hispanics released last week found Rubio leading Murphy by 46-39 percent with that gap growing to 16 percent among Spanish speakers. What is of even more concern to Murphy is that 58 percent of those surveyed said that they did not know who Murphy was, while 94 percent knew Rubio.
Balsera said there is still plenty of time for Murphy to come across Latinos radar and he believes that Murphy and his staff are going to actively pursue the demographic in the final weeks of the campaign season.
"That's my job," Balsera said. "We have a full media campaign and also a broad network of surrogates in the Hispanic community who will be out on the campaign trail for Patrick. These surrogates are important because they can vouch for Patrick to those Hispanics who don't know him."
Follow Andrew O'Reilly on Twitter @aoreilly84.