Put It in the Banco

SAN DIEGO—A Univision satellite truck was waiting for me as I pulled up to a real-estate and loan office a dozen miles from the Mexican border. A sparse crowd—about 20 people—was schmoozing inside while the correspondent filmed a stand-up in Spanish next to a carefully-taped Hillary sign. The Univision crew was the only broadcast media outlet to show up (and one of only three journalists overall), but I got the sense that the Hillary camp didn’t care. The second Univision showed up, their goal had been accomplished.

The event was essentially a glorified phone bank, focusing specifically on Latino voters. In reality, the event wasn’t much of an event, nor was it all that Latino-focused. Volunteers showed up, they got to meet other Hillary-philes, and they called a bunch of laymen (who may or may not have been Latino) to convince them to vote for Hillary on Tsunami Tuesday. Dozens of these phone banks take place in the state every day (there are three in San Diego, alone). That Univision decided to package a story about such a non-event was a coup for the CCC (Clinton California Campaign) because the story will show that the Clinton campaign cares about the Latino community—and that they don’t take that support for granted.

All of this matters because Obama has a Latino problem and Clinton knows it. Clinton more than doubled Obama’s Latino support in Nevada and doubled his number in the maybe-meaningless Florida results. But Obama isn’t giving up. He’s airing aggressive Spanish-language ads here (as is Clinton), and some journalists bored with the Latinos-like-Clinton storyline are now suggesting Ted Kennedy’s endorsement will magically attract Latinos to Obama. We’re doubtful that’s true, but that’s another post for another time.

This minor phone bank may seem like an inconsequential effort to court Latino voters compared to thousand-person rallies—but it’s not. Because all of the candidates’ schedules are so accelerated, Clinton can’t personally spend time with Latino families like she might have done if California was an early primary state. Instead she—and the rest of the campaigns—have to entrust staffers and volunteers to carry the mantle and the message.  

In the Feb. 5 states, more votes will be earned while the candidate isn’t in town than when he or she is. The candidates set the agenda nationally and then the grassroots follow-through locally. It’s a pointillistic approach: When viewed individually, the small events seem like inconsequential dots; but when you zoom out it’s clear that they’re all part of a larger painting. And when a Spanish-language TV station gives a Latino dot its close-up, it makes the overall message even more defined.