Democrat Candidates Court the Hispanic Vote in Nevada

E-mail Lindsay Stewart

If you follow presidential politics and the candidates' bids to get their party’s nominations Iowa or New Hampshire may come to mind as states with particular importance, since their primary and caucus usually come early in the nomination process. But what if I told you all the major candidates are paying particular attention to Nevada, which has only five electoral votes?

All the major presidential hopefuls have already stopped in the Silver State, as Nevada's caucus will be second only to Iowa. But glad-handing and kissing babies isn't all you would see if you follow the candidates on their campaign stops. On a recent visit to Las Vegas, FNC correspondent Anita Vogel and I tracked Hillary Clinton's efforts to target the Hispanic vote. For Clinton, that means setting up a Hispanic task force, which no other major candidate has officially done. The aim: to get local community leaders to spread their campaign's word without appearing like they are pandering to that ethnic group. Often dubbed the sleeping giant, the Hispanic vote is coveted by all the candidates, but democrats in particular have an edge since many immigrant rights groups feel the party has done a better job of addressing their concerns.

Members of the task force, like attorney Max Couvillier, were impressed by the sheer fact that the campaign contacted him first. He says he enjoys contacting other members in the Hispanic community and asking them what issues Clinton should focus on. He believes the Hispanic community will be more receptive to him and other members of the committee, rather than having the presidential candidate do her own leg work.

Rory Reid, who runs Clinton's western efforts, says the senator is ahead of the curve with this idea as she is the only major candidate to focus on individual ethnic groups. But the question I kept thinking throughout the interview is why did her camp pick Nevada? California surely has more Hispanic voters.

The answer: timing. Nevada has become a bell of the ball because their democratic caucus is early and Reid thinks Nevada will be a trendsetter for California voters. My first news job was at a station in Las Vegas; when I worked there, I never thought California would be looking to Nevada for advice.

But Clinton's efforts to target specific ethnic groups could have its pitfalls say political consultants who advise candidates from both sides of the aisle. Their main concern with Hispanic voters is that the group doesn't always follow party lines, even if the immigration debate is front and center on the political spectrum. Many Hispanic voters often lean to the conservative side as religion and family values play a huge role.

And then there is New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, the first person of Hispanic descent to run for president. He surely has an edge on Clinton, since he spent a good deal of his childhood living in Mexico with his mother. I asked Governor Richardson at a press conference what he thought about Clinton's efforts to scoop up the Hispanic vote. His answer was a humorous moment with dramatic pauses only comedians seem to master. Richardson's reply to my question: "Task force? . . .I know those problems." His implication: you can only know an ethnic group and address their concerns if you are part of it.

Richardson has problems of his own however, many voters don't know that he is Latino, and he doesn't have Senator Clinton's fundraising abilities which would give him the cash to spread the word.

E-mail Lindsay Stewart

Lindsay Stewart produces political stories in the western United States. She started at Fox in 2004 as a general assignment producer. Before coming to Fox, she produced Special Projects and Investigative pieces in the Los Angeles and Las Vegas television markets. In addition to covering politics, she values her time covering Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and loves putting together visually interesting profile pieces like Bob Barker's last day on the Price is Right.