Latino Voters Say Romney Ad Tying Obama to Chavez, Castro Is Outdated

Some say the ads appeal to a Cuban-American community that is dying out.

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When the Romney campaign began playing its latest ad targeting Latino voters in Florida Tuesday, the ad was not released on YouTube. It was not sent out to reporters. And the campaign only published the ad on its web site after initially ignoring requests from news organizations to see it.

But the Miami Herald got its hands early Thursday on an iPhone video recording of the TV spot, which it reports “aired three times in a prime time Spanish-language news program Tuesday and at least four times on the same show Wednesday—including twice in the same commercial break.”

The campaign may have tried to slip the ad in under the radar because of its controversial content.

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In the spot, President Barack Obama is linked to three of the most polarizing figures in Latino history: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the niece of Cuban strongman Fidel Castro, and Argentine revolutionary Che Guevara.

Some experts on the Latino vote think the ad's content won't appeal to the larger Latino community.

"It feels old to me," says Julio Varela, founder of the popular independent Latino website Latino Rebels. "It speaks to this diminishing image of the hard line anti-Communist voter. I think second and third generations are saying 'This is over the top.'"

The ad includes a clip of Castro's niece Mariela, a gay rights advocate, lauding Obama's support of same-sex marriage, and of Chavez saying he'd vote for Obama if he was an American citizen. Back in July, Romney argued in his foreign policy address at the Virginia Military Institute that Obama has been soft on the Chavez and Castro regimes.

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The ad also dredges up an E-mail sent out by the Environmental Protection Agency during Hispanic Heritage Month that featured Che Guevara. The EPA later apologized for the E-mail, saying it came from a staffer and was not authorized.

Responses to the ad from readers appear to be mostly negative.

"Che and Chavez and Obama? In what universe? Che was killed in 1967. Obama was 5 years old and Chavez was 13. Pray tell when and where these three walked together?" wrote a commenter named "Grillo" on the Herald story. "These people are hoping that nobody figures out that the timeline is not there. This attempt to rile the Cuban and Venezuelan voters with tragic historical wounds is nothing more than another cheap attempt to divide the Hispanic community."

On the Latino Rebels Facebook page, San Jose resident Elizabeth Ferrari wrote that she also thought the ad felt old. "Most of the people who would understand that, let alone care about it, are dead," she wrote. Varela says the ad is especially unlikely to win over Puerto Ricans—the second largest Latino voting group in Florida, though it may be well-received by its seeming target audience: older Cuban-Americans.

Florida Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, who is Cuban-American, has already voiced his support of the ad on local Spanish-language radio. According to the Herald, Diaz-Balart paraphrased a Spanish proverb on Radio Mambi Wednesday: "Tell me who you walk with, and I'll tell you who you are," he said.

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  • Elizabeth Flock is a staff writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow her on Twitter or Facebook or reach her at eflock@usnews.com.