Five years ago at the East Chicago Puerto Rican Day Parade, my day began with several hundred Obama for America yard signs and several hundred Latinos for Obama yard signs to distribute on the campaign trail. Everyone wanted one and they were gone in 20 minutes. Everyone, that is, but the Latinos for Hillary.
In 2008, Latinos for Hillary was an easier sell than Latinos for Obama. Everyone knew the Clintons. No one knew Obama. In one Latino home, a 19 year old named Angel Rodriguez had just enlisted in the Marines. He told Barack Obama so at a campaign rally in Munster. They shook hands. Obama thanked Angel and walked away. Angel said, "Heyo, Barack! Get back here for a sec." The candidate returned and won Angel's vote. The story made the front page of the local newspaper.
This summer, a poll by Latino Decisions showed that while Senator Marco Rubio leads potential Republican presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton wallops Rubio (66 percent to 28 percent) among Latino voters.
Angel's mother supported Hillary. She was not alone. Hispanics voted for Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama by a margin of nearly two-to-one during the 2008 Democratic Primary. When Hillary withdrew from the race and endorsed Obama, Angel's mother followed suit. Again, she was not alone. Latinos voted for Obama over John McCain 67 percent to 31 percent during the 2008 general election.
Now Hillary is back. She is writing a new book, hired a diet guru, and the Ready for Hillary super PAC is booming online. While Ready for Hillary has no official tie to Hillary Clinton, it is building a vast network of her supporters via constant social media reminders of her iconic life as an American public servant and powerful personality. Ready for Hillary’s digital campaign is coupled with a ground game run by Jeremy Bird and Mitch Stewart, the political organizing pioneers who engineered Barack Obama’s campaign successes in 2008.
So far, Ready for Hillary’s digital campaign approach is paying off. Last week the group held an ice cream social at the home of Susan Ness, Bill Clinton’s FCC Chairwoman, in the suburbs of Washington, D.C.. Ready for Hillary co-founder Allida Black was mid-speech when the news broke that the campaign had reached 1 million followers on Facebook. The room erupted in cheers.
“This is only the beginning,” Black assured the thirty-or-so supporters gathered in Ness’s living room. “We need to keep the momentum going so that if Hillary decides to run, we’ll be fired up and ready to go!”
According to Black, multicultural outreach has been key to the campaign’s success, especially among Latinos. As part of Ready for Hillary’s Latino outreach strategy, the campaign has purchased Spanish-language web ads asking Latino Americans to join the movement.
“The response has been incredible,” says Seth Bringman, Ready for Hillary’s Communications Director. The next steps for the campaign’s Latino outreach strategy are to launch a Spanish-language version of ReadyforHillary.com and to hire a Latino Americans Director. (“Interest has been very high,” says Bringman of the application process.)
David Romo, founder of the Latino Influentials social network, attended the ice cream social. He is surprised that other political campaigns are not taking Latino voters more seriously. “The bottom line is that Latinos will be key to the next presidential election and every presidential election from now on,” says Romo. “That’s why it’s so important for campaigns to reach out to Latinos early and in meaningful ways.”
If Hillary Clinton decides to run for president in 2016, her ability to mobilize a growing community of online supporters will give her huge advantages over the field of foreseeable opponents, especially among Latinos. The Clinton brand has always been strong among Latino voters, and the Hillary brand is polling extremely well. This summer, a poll by Latino Decisions showed that while Senator Marco Rubio leads potential Republican presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton wallops Rubio (66 percent to 28 percent) among Latino voters.
“Latinos are among the most enthusiastic supporters who want to see Hillary run for president,” says Bringman. It will be interesting to see how the Ready for Hillary campaign optimizes this enthusiasm over the next three years. Continued success in bilingual advertising and steadfast sensitivity to cultural mores will be keys to the demographic. While too much can happen between now and 2016 to effectively predict an outcome, one thing is becoming increasingly clear: Latinos have been ready for Hillary for a long time.