Yesterday, the Mitt Romney campaign released a Spanish-language ad called "Deprimente" (also released as "Dismal" in English). The focus is jobs and the news that the unemployment rate among US Hispanics is now at 11%.
It is perhaps the one thing that Romney 2012 can criticize President Obama when it comes to the US Latino vote. Here is the video (we give it a B in terms of language and translation quality, it almost gets there linguistically—¿han caído en la pobreza?—yet it is still surprisingly effective, since the use of ¿EN SERIO? at the end works):
Too bad that the Spanish description of the ad still reads as a literal translation, as well as some of the actual content of the ad. Imagine how much more effective it would have been if it were actually WRITTEN in Spanish and not just TRANSLATED from the English:
La campaña de Obama recientemente lanzó un video asegurando que "vamos por el camino correcto". Mitt Romney no está de acuerdo. El desempleo ha subido y mas [sic] hispanos enfrentan la pobreza. Este no es el "camino correcto" para nuestro país. Estados Unidos puede mejorar. Con Mitt Romney como presidente, lo hará.
As with most political campaigns that treat the Spanish language as a secondary afterthought, what we are seeing in Romney's first real quest into Spanish communication is the same old, same old: bad, clunky, and literal translations. So in the end, Romney comes across as what he is: some white guy who is trying to solve his "Latino problem," which is still a problem since the former Massachusetts governor got all neo-nativist last year. Has the damage already been done? Latest polls of US Latino voters still have Romney trailing by over 30 points to President Obama. Most would agree that if Romney doesn't get to around 40% with the US Latino vote, he won't win La Casa Blanca. He might be lucky to get 30% right now. Is that going to be enough?
At the same time that the Romney campaign released these new ads, it also published a statement in bad literal Spanish from former Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutiérrez, who served under the Bush administration from 2005-2009. Talk about linguistic clunkiness. Yet maybe it doesn't matter with voters, but we think it does, since communication in any language is all about being natural and authentic in your messaging. Next time, just have Gutiérrez actually SAY something in Spanish instead of TRANSLATING a statement into English:
"Desde el primer día de su Presidencia las políticas de Barack Obama han sido hostiles hacia los creadores de empleo y las pequeñas empresas. El informe de empleos del mes pasado confirma los efectos negativos de esas políticas, particularmente en las comunidades hispanas. Tan sólo en el último mes, el desempleo para los latinos se ha disparado de un 10.3% a un 11%. El Presidente Obama prometió la esperanza y un cambio, ahora sólo está esperando cambiar del tema de su historial económico fracasado. Mitt Romney ayudará a darle rienda al espíritu emprendedora de los pequeños negocios y creadores de empleos americanos, y hará que nuestra economía se mueva nuevamente”.
The Obama campaign immediately responded to Romney's ads, as reported by Fox News Latino.
“Hispanics stand to lose the most from Romney’s insistence on the same failed economic policies that created the economic crisis," said Gabriela Domenzain, campaign spokesperson, "including his plans to give massive tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires, allow Wall Street write its own rules again, and let foreclosures ‘hit the bottom.’"
And it is clear that the Obama campaign will keep reminding US Latino voters that Romney ain't the most forward-thinking of guys when it comes to immigration. The RNC and Romney are smart to shift the discussion to the economy, but they will be hard-pressed to explain why Romney is ready to fence the border and have everyone self-deport.