A recent GOP ad urged Latinos to stay home rather than vote, but voter rights activists say it may actually provoke a backlash and motivate Latinos, who may have been sitting on the fence, to vote.
Due to the outcry, the advertisement has been yanked by Univision and refused by Telemundo.
Funded by a Republican-linked organization misleadingly dubbed "Latinos for Reform," the ad targets Democrats claiming they failed to deliver on immigration reform. The message says, "Don't vote this November. This is the only way to send them a clear message. [Democrats] can no longer take us for granted."
Democratic National Committee chair Tim Kane denounced it saying, "Right-wing Republican groups have again made it clear that they will do the GOP's dirty work by acting to mislead voters and suppress Democratic turnout." He added that this latest attempt goes well beyond political trickery and runs counter to the democratic spirit that fuels elections.
"In our democracy, it is the voice of the people that is supposed to be of paramount importance and there is no more important way for the American people to govern themselves than by casting their vote," he said.
Kane notes Republicans are using these tactics as part of an overall plan to seek victory through obstruction. "They've opposed President Obama's efforts to rebuild our economy, reform health care, provide credit and tax relief for the types of small businesses that have become the hallmark of Latino success," he said.
"Since Obama took office Republicans have worked in lockstep to oppose every single Democratic proposal for cleaning up the mess created by failed Republican policies," said Kane.
"When Democrats stepped forward in favor of comprehensive immigration reform - and the DREAM Act - not a single Republican stepped forward to offer support in the U.S. Senate," Kane continued. "And when Democrats passed legislation to stabilize our economy, cut taxes for 95 percent of Americans, and support job growth, Republicans refused to join that effort."
The DREAM Act would allow undocumented children of immigrant parents to go to college in this country.
The ad was expected to run in several states, including Nevada, where Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid faces a tough re-election campaign against GOP and tea party backed, Sharron Angle. Angle supports harsh immigration policies and, although she has distanced herself from the ad since its debut, she has stopped short of criticizing it.
Reid is a strong advocate for immigration reform and attempted to pass the DREAM Act last month as part of the defense bill. It was filibustered by Republican senators.
Meanwhile, a recent poll shows Latino registered voters in Nevada favor Democrats by a 68 percent to 16 percent margin over Republicans. Latino voters made up over 12 percent of the Nevada electorate in 2008 and Latino voter turnout jumped there by over 164 percent between 2000 and 2008. In 2008, 76 percent of Nevada Latinos voted for Obama, turning the state from red to blue. And a large Latino turnout next month could make the difference and be fatal to Angle, analysts note.
Latino advocates and civil rights leaders say it is precisely because of this latest voter suppression tactic that Latino voters should vote. Others note the ad may turn out to be a perverse gift for Democrats on Election Day, in that it could enrage people who might have sat out the elections enough to bring them to the polls.
"Too many people fought too long and too hard - some at the cost of their lives - for the right of all citizens to vote," said Janet Murguía, president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza. "This ad is a blatant attempt to undermine both that noble struggle and the long proud history that Latinos have in this country."
Murguía notes it's clear the Latino vote will make a big impact on Election Day and will most likely play a decisive role in California, Florida, Nevada, New Mexico, Illinois, Arizona and Texas.
Obama called the ad "terrible," adding, "It's a cynical political ploy to drive Latino votes to benefit a Republican candidate in Nevada who would never vote for immigration reform."
Robert de Posada founded Latinos for Reform in 2008 and issued the Republican-funded ad. It was expected to run in Nevada, Florida, California, Texas and Colorado through Nov. 2. De Posada has a long list of ties to conservative immigration reform groups and was once director of Hispanic affairs with the Republican National Committee. He also worked to privatize Social Security under President George W. Bush.
Image: Latinos in some states have taken advantage of early voting. (Pepe Lozano/PW)