The website of one candidate for president reads, “Esto empieza contigo.” (“This begins with you.”)
And it says, “Todos necesitan un campeón. Yo quiero ser tu campeón” (“Everyone needs a champion. I want to be your champion.”)
Although two of the four politicians who have launched their campaigns so far are Hispanic, the only one seriously reaching out to Spanish-speaking voters on their campaign website is not: former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
“The ability to communicate to citizens, no matter what their background, and the effort to be as inclusive as possible sends an important signal and is also substantively important,” said Matthew Dallek, an assistant professor of politics George Washington University.
Clinton has enjoyed strong Latino support throughout her career.
During the Democratic primaries in 2008, Latino voters demonstrated more enthusiasm over her candidacy when she ran for president than they did for Barack Obama. Polls showed then, as they do now, that she is more popular among Latinos than any other declared or expected 2016 presidential candidates.
“It’s a hallmark of her campaigns,” said Fernand Amandi, managing partner at the Bendixen & Amandi International polling firm, which is based in Florida. “She has always understood the role of Hispanics in the United States. Her Spanish-language website shows a greater sensitivity that she has with the Hispanic electorate.”
Clinton's Spanish-language website drew some criticism for having lower suggested campaign donation choices than the English-language one – something that came across to some as stereotyping Latinos as poor. The Clinton campaign has changed the site to have the same donation choices as the English-language one.
The Republican National Committee dismissed Clinton's direct online outreach in Spanish, characterizing it as a gimmick.
“Hillary’s Spanish-language site looks like the campaign is checking a box rather than launching a high-quality website," said Ruth Guerra, RNC Director of Hispanic Media. "Not only are there numerous mistakes on the site, but what’s more telling is the fact that Hillary’s campaign suggested different donation amounts to English and Spanish speakers. Hillary’s campaign needs to explain why they think Spanish speakers can’t contribute the same as anyone else.”
While they don’t have a website in Spanish, Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas, both Republicans of Cuban descent, have used Spanish to reach out to Latino voters.
Cruz’s campaign launch included a Spanish-language YouTube video in which a narrator – not Cruz, who doesn't speak fluent Spanish – talked about the senator’s Cuban immigrant father and a childhood that framed his view of the United States as the land of “faith, liberty and opportunity.”
Rubio’s campaign website has a Spanish-language entry titled, “Conozca a la Familia Rubio” (“Meet the Rubio Family”).
Unlike Cruz, Rubio often speaks some Spanish in press conferences and spoke a little during his televised announcement about running for president.
Some conservative groups have been critical of the use of foreign languages during campaigns, believing that it sends the message that people don’t need to learn English.
But political experts say that in Rubio’s case, it has likely added to his appeal.
“It came as kind of expected,” said Craig Shirley, a presidential historian and author of several books, including “Reagan’s Revolution." “It came across as sweet.”