Trump, Clinton Ads AWOL on Spanish-Language TV
As Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton jockey for support among Latino voters, neither campaign is speaking directly to this key demographic on the airwaves.
Neither camp has reserved airtime on Spanish-language television into the fall. Clinton has not placed ads on Spanish-language TV since prior to the Democratic National Convention, while Trump has not done so at any point.
The dearth of such advertising marks a sharp break with trends in recent presidential elections and might reflect an assessment by both campaigns that Clinton’s lead among Latino voters is unassailable.
“At this point in the cycle, ‘unusual’ is putting it mildly,” said Steve Passwaiter of Kantar Media CMAG, which tracks political advertising. “‘Unprecedented’ is much closer to the truth.”
Trump, who has largely eschewed television advertising in his presidential campaign, burst onto the airwaves last week with his first ad of the general election, airing in four battleground states as part of a $5 million buy. The campaign plans to extend its advertising with a $10 million buy, the AP reported late Sunday, but as of Monday morning the time had not been reserved.
Meanwhile, Trump and his campaign sought to visibly improve their outreach to Latino voters last week, with the GOP nominee softening his tone on immigration and convening a Hispanic Advisory Council for input. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said the meeting was “just one component of our expansive effort to engage the Hispanic community,” Fox News reported.
But those two efforts, to engage on television and with Latino voters, did not intersect. The campaign’s ad, which focused on immigration, did not air on any Spanish-language television networks. Meanwhile, Trump has not spent a dime on Spanish-language TV during the election, according to multiple media buying sources, nor has he reserved any such time for the fall. A campaign spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.
Still, Trump has generally dismissed the value of television advertising. Clinton’s campaign, however, continues to spend freely — except on Spanish-language networks. Only the pro-Clinton super PAC Priorities USA is airing ads on Spanish-language TV, but just in Colorado, Passwaiter said.
In Clinton’s case, the restrained spending strategy likely projects confidence in her standing: A recent Fox News poll showed Clinton leading Trump among Latino voters by 46 points, with 66 percent to 20 percent for Trump. Contributing to Trump’s low support was an 82 percent unfavorable rating, exacerbated by his harsh tone regarding illegal immigrants and his comments earlier this year questioning the impartiality of a judge of Mexican descent.
“If you already have that kind of a lead, are you going to spend where you’ve got a big advantage?” Passwaiter said. Indeed, her commanding leads in Colorado and Virginia have already caused the Clinton campaign to pull its advertising from all networks there. Clinton’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
During the 2012 election, Romney and affiliated Republican groups spent roughly $6.3 million on Spanish-language television, beginning in May 2012. President Obama and his allies spent around $11 million. In some ads, both candidates spoke Spanish themselves.
The Clinton and Trump campaigns could later decide to follow this template. But with Labor Day fast approaching, time is running out — and Trump, in particular, will need to grow his support among Latino voters, particularly in states like Florida where they will be most influential.
One sticking point might be his fluid stance on immigration, which he seemed to soften this week before moving back toward his hardline position. Although he has remained consistent on bolstering border security with a wall, Trump remains unclear as to how undocumented immigrants would pursue a path to legalization, if at all, and who would be eligible.
“If he started putting ads on Spanish TV right now without clearly defining his next step on immigration, it’s going to seem very insincere,” said one battleground state GOP leader. “If I were advising him, I’d say wait.”
Still, Trump has begun to explicitly court Hispanic and African-American voters in a bid to broaden his appeal. At a rally in Jackson, Miss., last week, Trump said Clinton would “do nothing for African-Americans; she's going to do nothing for the Hispanics.”
But the best way to amplify that message among its target audience, many political strategists say, is to bring it directly to voters.
“You reach people by going to where they are,” said Mac Stipanovich, a longtime Florida Republican strategist. While “characteristic of [Trump’s] non-campaign generally,” Stipanovich added, “it is risky to not attempt to communicate by means that they value with significant demographic groups in Florida.”