WASHINGTON – The Spanish-language ads for Joe Biden used the same slogan to contrast him with President Donald Trump — “los cuentos no pagan las cuentas,” a play on words that roughly means “telling stories won't pay the bills.”
But the narrator for the version that aired in Miami had a Cuban accent. In Orlando, Florida, the accent was Puerto Rican. And in Phoenix, it was Mexican.
Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, is hoping to capture Florida and other pivotal states by pushing Latino turnout rates higher than when Hillary Clinton was defeated in 2016. A key to doing that is a deeper understanding of Latino voters' backgrounds thanks to new advancements in “micro-targeting."
That means using data modeling of voter populations to produce ads and customize outreach aimed at individual ethnic groups within the larger Latino community.
“We now have the capacity to do sub-ethnicity modeling,” Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez, whose parents immigrated to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic, said on a recent conference call with Biden advisers.
“If you meet someone named Perez, or Alex or Rodríguez in Florida — and you want them to vote for Joe Biden — one of the most important things you ought to learn about them is, are they Rodríguez, Alex or Perez de Venezuela, de la Republica Dominicana, de Cuba, de Puerto Rico?" he said. “De” means "from” in Spanish.
Campaigns often target voters with individualized messaging. It's why presidential candidates stress one theme while trying to woo Midwest African Americans and another for white, suburban women in the South.
Still, top Democrats are betting big that subtle tweaks could pay big dividends. Latino turnout in 2016 fell to 47.6% of eligible voters in that group, down nearly 3 percentage points from 2008, according to U.S. Census surveys. Improving that, they argue, could potentially flip Florida and tighten the race in once steadfastly Republican Arizona.