Meg Whitman’s Spanish-Language Makeover


California gubernatorial contender Meg Whitman seems to be bouncing back with Latino voters after a Spanish-language media blitz, despite having railed against illegal immigrants during the Republican primary. Though her Democratic opponent Jerry Brown still has a lead with Latino voters in the states, his allies are already worried that he’s losing support from a crucial voting bloc in the state. The Los Angeles Times reports:

Since the June 8 primary, Whitman has aired ads on Spanish-language television during the World Cup and on radio. Her campaign has erected billboards in Latino communities and spoken on Spanish-language media outlets. Her efforts appear to be paying off.

Though Brown held an 11-point lead among Latino voters in a Field Poll released earlier this week, Whitman had the support of 39%, a 14-point gain since March and at the level that strategists say she needs to be to win in November.

Whitman’s new ads have touted her opposition to Arizona’s harsh new immigration law, as well as California’s Prop 187—the anti-immigration law that poisoned Latino voters against the Republican Party in the 1990s when then-GOP governor Pete Wilson pushed it through.

But Whitman’s Spanish-language makeover in the general election is a marked reversal from the tone that she struck in the GOP primary, when the challenge from conservative Steve Poizner pushed her to the right on the issue. During the primary, she touted her opposition to illegal immigration, screened an ad featuring Pete Wilson and a border fence, and accused Poizner of supporting “amnesty.”

Brown is now trying to remind voters of Whitman’s harsh talking points during the primary. And Latino Democrats insist that voters will see through her opportunism. “While our community is bilingual, we’re not naïve,” one Latino state senator told the LA Times. But given Whitman’s recent bounce in the poll, there’s still a chance that Latino voters will either forgive or forget her earlier bombast. And she’s certainly not alone among Republican nominees who’re hoping that their hardline primary positions will simply go down the memory hole.

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  • Suzy Khimm was a reporter in the Washington bureau of Mother Jones from March 2010 until June 2011. For more of her stories, click here. Follow her on Twitter here.