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Candidates vie for Hispanic vote in key state -

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Candidates vie for Hispanic vote in key states

The World Today - Thursday, 23 October , 2008 12:26:00

Reporter: Michael Rowland

ELEANOR HALL: Opinion polls show the Democrat presidential candidate Barack Obama building a steady
lead over his Republican rival John McCain.

More significantly, Senator Obama is edging ahead in the handful of battleground states that will
decide the election.

One of these is New Mexico where the key to success is winning over the state's large Hispanic

North America correspondent Michael Rowland has been gauging the views of some of these New Mexico

(Sound of Mexican music)

MICHAEL ROWLAND: A mariachi band entertains a late-afternoon crowd on a lazy Autumn day in the
small town of Mesilla near the Mexico border.

The Hispanic influence in this state is deeply entrenched. Latinos make up 45 per cent of the New
Mexico population and nearly 40 per cent of its eligible voters. It has always been a keenly fought
electoral battleground.

Four years ago, George Bush prevailed here by fewer than 6000 votes. Then, as now, Hispanics will
determine the outcome and that is why both Barack Obama and John McCain are carefully targeting
their political messages.

(Extract from Advertisement in Spanish)

JOHN MCCAIN: I'm John McCain and I approve this message.

(End of extract)

MICHAEL ROWLAND: The Spanish ads and the intensive on-the-ground campaigning are concentrating the
minds of the Hispanic population.

Christine Sierra of the University of New Mexico says the turmoil on Wall Street and fears about a
painful recession are clearly favouring Barack Obama.

CHRISTINE SIERRA: Like Hispanics elsewhere, they will list jobs and the economy, public education
and healthcare and on those issues I would say, objectively speaking, that Barack Obama's agenda
meshes more with what they say they support.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Although it has fallen off the political radar elsewhere, the war in Iraq is still
a hot-button issue in New Mexico. A disproportionate number of Hispanics have fought and died in
Iraq and there is residual anger about the decision to invade in the first place.

Antonio Gandara-Martinez, a member of the College Democrats of New Mexico, has seen his brother and
mother shipped off to Iraq. He believes a lot of Hispanics are ready to punish the Republicans over
the war.

ANTONIO GANDARA-MARTINEZ: From my experience it seems that most Hispanics are now against the war,
or at least the original idea that we went in there for weapons of mass destruction and all that
came out is very controversial reasons that we went in.

Our leaning against the war like the rest of America, just like the rest of America for economic
reasons, for security reasons.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: But Republicans aren't giving up. Dan Garza heads New Mexico's Republican National
Hispanic Assembly.

DAN GARZA: Well, I think that Hispanics are going to find it, especially here in New Mexico, tough
to vote for Senator Obama for a lot of reasons stemming from immigration to social issues, issue of
abortion, school vouchers, marriage, taxes.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: The battle for the all-important Hispanic vote is picking up tempo as election day

In Albuquerque, this is Michael Rowland reporting for The World Today.