That groups focused on Latino voter turnout have chosen to focus on North Carolina, a state where their vote share in 2012 was five times lower than the national average, shows just how small a role the much-discussed bloc will play in 2014. But it also highlights how close the race for control of the Senate is, and how Democrats are taking every step they can to encourage friendly voters to cast ballots in the traditionally low-turnout midterm election year.
"It's true that it's a small percentage of the population, but we're talking about a midterm in which any and every vote is going to make a huge difference," said Pili Tobar, the Democratic National Committee's director of Hispanic media. "I think there's a misconception that there are only certain states where, because the Latino population is large, they're the states where they will matter. In reality, we're seeing more and more states, particularly in the South, where there is a growing population that will make an increasing difference in these races."
People For the American Way put up the state's first Spanish-language ad, a radio hit on Tillis over education and tax breaks for the wealthy, this past May. The group is gearing up to go on television closer to the election, continuing their message that Tillis threatens many of the policy issues most important to Hispanic voters.
Tillis, who has recently been embroiled in a race-based controversy for once referring to white voters as North Carolina's "traditional" voting bloc, gives PFAW a candidate they think will drive Hispanic voters to the polls to vote against.
"North Carolina is the first state we've gone into because Thom Tillis's extreme agenda is forcing our hand to get involved early," said PFAW political director Randy Borntrager. "We're extremely concerned about the Latino community understanding what's at stake, so we engaged quickly."
Borntrager said Tillis's record on Medicaid, education, and tax breaks for the wealthy, combined with a history of "foot-in-mouth" comments when it comes to minorities, was something PFAW would make sure all Latinos were aware of come November.
"He's so bad on so many issues that's it is an incredible motivation to get out and vote," Borntrager said.
As PFAW takes on education efforts, the state's Democratic Party is also at work on the largest get-out-the-vote operation North Carolina has ever seen in a Senate race. North Carolina Democratic Party spokesman Ben Ray said his group was also counting on Tillis as a motivating factor for Latinos to register and vote.
Meanwhile, communicating with Hispanics offers Democrats a much less expensive way to talk to potential voters than is typical in North Carolina. PFAW spent a grand total of $1.4 million on election-related activity in 2011 and 2012; Americans for Prosperity has already spent many times that on North Carolina TV in recent months alone. But Spanish-language ads that target their specific audience allow the anti-Tillis group to use its money more efficiently than on English-language media.