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The Role Multilingual Campaigns Have Played In The 2018 Midterms

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

If you voted today, you might be wearing one of those I Voted stickers. Or maybe it says Yo Vote. In some parts of the country, Spanish has had a real presence this election cycle.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Speaking Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Speaking Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: (Speaking Spanish).

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee says it's launched more Spanish-language media ads this year than ever before. And in a few key races, Republicans have also been making appeals in Spanish.

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MARCO RUBIO: (Speaking Spanish).

SHAPIRO: That's Senator Marco Rubio campaigning for Ron DeSantis, who's running for governor in Florida. And while you may hear more Spanish on the campaign trail this year, it's actually been a strategy for decades.

CORNISH: In the 1960 race for president, John F. Kennedy sought out Latino voters with the Viva Kennedy campaign.

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JACKIE KENNEDY: (Speaking Spanish).

CORNISH: Yes, that's Jackie Kennedy making the case for her husband in a TV ad. JFK won the election that year with 85 percent of the Mexican-American vote.

SHAPIRO: Of course today the country's population is much more diverse than it was in 1960. Alejandro Flores is a doctoral candidate at the University of Chicago, and he says bilingual campaigning is not just about reaching voters who don't speak English. It can also raise a candidate's likability.

ALEJANDRO FLORES: So it's not just about overcoming a language barrier, but you're talking about individuals that you could potentially speak to in two different languages.

CORNISH: Speak to and hopefully win over. Sri Kulkarni is one candidate who's fully embraced that idea. He's a Democrat running to represent the 22nd District of Texas in Congress.

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SRI KULKARNI: (Speaking Spanish).

SHAPIRO: He has campaigned not just in Spanish but also in Chinese.

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KULKARNI: (Speaking Mandarin Chinese).

CORNISH: And in Hindi.

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KULKARNI: (Speaking Hindi).

SHAPIRO: Plus a bunch of other languages, too, all in an effort to turn out every vote possible. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.