GOP Candidates Talk Tough On Learning English, But Also Advertise In Spanish

GOP candidates talk tough on learning English, but also advertise in Spanish

Are hopefuls trying to have it both ways? They say it's not a contradiction.

By Eunice Moscoso
Thursday, January 24, 2008

WASHINGTON Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani often garners applause when he says that immigrants must learn to read, write and speak English to become U.S. citizens.

Fellow GOP candidate Mitt Romney, is greeted with a similar response when he advocates making English the nation's official language.

Republican candidate Rudy Giuliani says there's no conflict between his policies and reaching out to Hispanic voters using ads in Spanish.

Meanwhile, both men have turned to the airwaves in Spanish to go after voters in Florida, a key state in the Republican primary and a must-win for Giuliani, according to political analysts.

Douglas Rivlin, spokesman for the National Immigration Forum, an immigrant advocacy group, said that the candidates are trying to have it both ways.

“Going from pandering to the deportation-only crowd, and pivoting towards attracting Hispanic voters is like watching Republican politicians playing Twister,” he said.

Reaching out to Latino voters in Spanish does not contradict their positions on promoting English among immigrants, the candidates said. Learning English is a process, and many voters have not yet mastered that language, they say.

Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, said in a recent debate that he welcomed legal immigrants into his campaign and was “going to reach out to them in any language I can.”

John J. Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College in California, said there is would seem to be a disconnect between advertising in Spanish and stressing English as the nation's official language.

“Republicans can say that Spanish advertising is merely a stopgap, which is necessary because of the government's past failure to insist on English literacy,” he said. “They could say that once their policies are in place, candidates will no longer have to advertise in other languages.”

Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, another major GOP contender, has not advertised in Spanish. Neither has Arizona Sen. John McCain.

Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, another Republican candidate, released his first Spanish radio ads about three weeks ago in the Miami area. The ads which advocate ending the U.S.-Cuba embargo are targeted to Cuban Americans ages 40 and younger, said Jesse Benton, a spokesman for Paul.

Hispanics are the fastest-growing group of voters in the United States. The number of Hispanics eligible to vote rose from about 14 million in 2000 to 17 million in 2006, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. However, voter turnout among Latinos has been traditionally low. In 2004, about 16 million Latinos were eligible to vote, but only 7.6 million cast ballots.

The Toms Rivera Policy Institute at the University of Southern California estimates that 9.3 million Hispanics will cast votes in the general election, including more than 1 million in Florida.