Presidential candidates reach out to Latino voters

Contra Costa Times reporter Matt O’Brien wrote a fascinating story today about how the presidential campaigns and candidates are reaching out to Latinos. But the candidates don’t necessarily do the best job speaking Spanish.

Click here for the story.

And below, you’ll find some extra notes that Matt could not fit into the published story as well as some links to the candidates as well as President Bush and Jackie Kennedy speaking in Spanish.


But impressions among fluent speakers was that whether or not he can actually speak the language in a non-scripted setting, Obama’s accent is better than that of President Bush, who has been known to sprinkle Spanish words into his speeches since his time as governor of Texas.

“It’s nice and short and correct,” said college Spanish instructor and Hayward City Councilman Francisco Zermeno. “It’s got a good use of the subjunctive. Good diction, he’s almost natively speaking, almost fluently, a couple little problems here and there. Not as fluid as it could be, but of course, he’s monolingual.”

Laurie Huffman Zeyna, a language instructor at Los Medanos College, was even more impressed, calling Obama’s proficiency “excellent” and wondering if he had a Central American language coach.

“I can hear in his voice a slight Central American accent,” she wrote in an e-mail.


In California, with the exception of Wednesday night’s interruption of soap opera “Cuidado con el Angel,” or “Beware of the Angel,” audiences have been spared presidential commercials since the February primary.

But supporters and opponents of statewide propositions have pumped millions into crafting their message to Latino voters. KDTV Univision 14 and KFSF TeleFutura 66, the two Bay Area stations under the Univision umbrella, received $112,000 this fall for commercials supporting Proposition 8, which would prohibit state recognition of same-sex marriages.

One shows a young girl telling her Latina mother, in Spanish, that she had to read a book in school about a prince marrying another prince. A commercial that runs on English-language channels is nearly identical, featuring the same woman speaking in English.

Opponents of Proposition 8 spent $99,000 on Univision commercials in the Bay Area, while supporters of Proposition 7, a renewable energy initiative, spent $40,000. The amount spent on other area Spanish-language stations, such as Telemundo, was not available.

Lisa Vorderbrueggen