Spanish-language debates on the menu?


Hispanic media giant Univision, which has already sparked citizenship and voter registration drives, is offering to host presidential debates from both parties on consecutive Sundays in September, offering a prime opportunity for candidates to market there wares before the nation's fastest-growing minority group. The debates would be held in Spanish, with instant translations going both ways.

The events would be held at the University of Miami and aired on Univision's extensive network. Only two of the 18 announced candidates, Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Bill Richardson (D-NM), and known to be fluent speakers of the Spanish language. Univision news anchors Jorge Ramos and Maria Elena Salinas would handle the questioning, which would focus on issues of particular interest to the Hispanic US population. Invitations went out to the candidates late last week.

TVBR observation: The big elephant in the room – immigration – may be a factor in dampening the enthusiasm that the elephants running for president are able to muster. While almost all of the Democrats in the race favor some sort of policy providing a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, most Republican candidates measure their differences by exactly how vehemently they are against it, with the notable exception of John McCain (R-AZ). On the other hand, the national Republican Party has long seen a great opportunity to tap into the Hispanic vote.

If enough Republican candidates snub the Univision offer, it could turn a contested minority with a split vote into a Democratic voting bloc. Univision itself has nothing to lose and much to gain. It has already been picking up public service chips for its citizenship/registration efforts, and stands to enjoy a nice payday, too, if political cash starts heading toward its signature constituency.