Barack Obama has Marc Anthony, Eva Longoria and Ricky Martin. Mitt Romney has Marco Rubio, Susana Martinez and Brian Sandoval.
One is definitely cool and connected. The other is, well, not.
More importantly, the people they're each attaching to their campaigns say loads about the candidates -- and about their understanding of Latinos.
The president is clearly trying to bond with Hispanics on an emotional and cultural level. That's smart. Romney is strategizing. Not so.
But the two approaches help explain why the president leads so solidly with Latinos in every poll. He gets what iconic advertising expert and political strategist Lionel Sosa (Hispanic campaign advisor to Ronald Reagan, no less) identified as the key to communicating with Latinos.
"What we're dealing with here is the logic of the heart, not the logic of reason, and the power of its effect on everyone, but especially Latinos, is remarkable," he wrote in his 1998 classic, The Americano Dream. "Like our homelands, we are lush and warm. We are extraordinarily open with each other. We communicate through a touch, a gesture, an embrace ... "
Sosa produced ad campaigns for George W. Bush, too. Of course, those ads would probably throw Tea Party conservatives and the "kick-'em-out-and- seal-the-border" crowd (folks like Romney immigration adviser Kris Kobach) into apoplectic fits.
The 2004 variation was five minutes long, and mailed to Latino voters across the country. In it, Bush waves a Mexican flag. He hugs a Latina woman. He holds a Hispanic baby.
And, perhaps most outrageous to the Kobach-backers today, Bush says: "About 15 years before the Civil War, much of the American West was northern Mexico. The people who lived there weren't called Latinos or Hispanics. They were Mexican citizens, until all that land became part of the United States.
"After that, many of them were treated as foreigners in their own land."
Bush won 40 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2004 (44, according to some exit polls).
That's the gold standard for a Republican presidential candidate. Less than that, most strategists figure, you lose. McCain got 31 percent. Obama, 67. The latest polls show Romney at 23 percent or less. He hit a record low of 14 percent in a Fox News poll in March.
It's not just Latinos who connect with their guts. As much as they might argue otherwise, people vote with their hearts, not their heads. The reasons they give for supporting a candidate are actually what they use to defend the decision they¿ve already made. Really.
In 2005, an Emory University political psychologist, Drew Western, published what is considered the pre-eminent study on the subject. As he put it in his book, The Political Brain, "What people knew about the disputed election had no impact on their judgments. ... The lion's share of voters' judgments about the relative validity of manual versus machine counts reflected nothing but their feelings toward the parties and the candidates."
So, back to Obama's star-studded Latino lineup.
In his new video for the president, salsero Marc Anthony says, "Latinos are a force that can and will help decide this election, and it's a good thing that we've got so much to say, right? The president has our back, so it's time to let him know that we've got his. Go to Latinos.barackobama.com and get involved today. ¡Estamos unidos!"
He'll also perform at an Obama fundraiser in Miami later this month. Tickets go for $25 to $40,000. Clearly, he's not just connecting with Hispanic hearts. He's going straight for their wallets. Ka- ching!
Marc Anthony's ad comes just a month after actress Eva Longoria, an official Obama campaign co-chair, posted hers.
"Whether he's fighting for affordable health care and access to education, or supporting small businesses in the Hispanic community ... over the last three years he's worked to reform our immigration system to give everyone a fair shot at the American dream," Longoria says.
Mitt's response shows not only a wonkish disconnect with Latino hearts. It shows his disconnect with Hispanic issues, as well.
He named 21 people to his Hispanic steering committee. All but one are politicians or current or former government officials. The one who's not is Denver Nuggets basketball player Rudy Fernandez, who, Kris Kobach should note, can't even vote. He's not a U.S. citizen.
But the disconnect goes even further.
Five of the people Romney named to his steering committee supported the version of the DREAM Act he has vowed to veto if he's elected. Former Sen. Mel Martinez, in fact, was one of its cosponsors. And Romney's embrace of Kobach's plan to make life so rough for undocumented immigrants that they¿ll "self-deport" was soundly criticized by another one of his steering committee members, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez.
"'Self-deport?' What the heck does that mean?¿ Martinez said to The Daily Beast just last month. "I have no doubt Hispanics have been alienated during this campaign."
All that's behind her now. Romney made her an honorary committee chairwoman. And, of course, she's being a good Republican. In the release announcing that she was part of the "Juntos con Romney" group, she said, "I am proud to stand with him and look forward to working to get him elected."
Is her heart really in it? Only she knows. But the fact is, Romney's latest move only proves, yet again, he's at least a touch tone-deaf when it comes to Hispanics. He hears the music. He wants to dance with us. But, the steps are stiff.
Obama, on the other hand, knows how to move -- and to move us.
Source: Terra/Carlos Harrison