Las Vegas (AP) - A Republican campaign urging Latinos not to vote has been yanked from the airwaves amid an outcry from Democrats that it was a dirty trick against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in his hotly contested race against Republican Sharron Angle.
Reid sought to link the ad to Angle Tuesday as it drew a harsh rebuke from President Barack Obama, Hispanic leaders and candidates from both parties in Nevada. Angle's opponents also pounced on the tea party favorite for her comments to Hispanic high school students that "some of you look a little more Asian to me."
(Harry Reid himself has been criticized for saying, “I don’t know how anyone of Hispanic heritage could be a Republican.”)
Reid has fiercely courted the Hispanic vote in the contest against Angle, who supports strict immigration policies. With the race in a dead heat, a dip in turnout among Hispanics would likely land Angle in the U.S. Senate.
"Listen to her latest, running ads on Hispanic television telling people not to vote," Reid said Tuesday. "She is trying to keep people from voting."
Angle is not responsible for the ad, however. The Republican group Latinos for Reform had planned to eventually run the commercials in Nevada, Florida, California, Texas and Colorado through the Nov. 2 election.
"Don't vote this November. This is the only way to send them a clear message," the ad's narrator announces in Spanish. "You can no longer take us for granted."
Univision told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the spot was pulled from one of its Spanish-language radio stations in Las Vegas shortly after the commercial hit the air.
Univision said it will also not run a companion ad on its Spanish-language TV broadcasting network and will continue to encourage Hispanics to vote.
Telemundo, the nation's other major Spanish-language network, also said it would not broadcast the TV spots if approached.
Obama slammed the campaign during a round-table with reporters from Spanish-language outlets.
"I think it is terrible," he said. "It is a cynical political ploy to try to drive Latino votes to benefit a Republican candidate in Nevada who would never vote for immigration reform."
Robert de Posada, the founder of Latinos for Reform, said he is trying to determine whether he can legally challenge Univision, which approved the commercials Friday.
"It is a very sad moment where you cannot have discourse in the Spanish market," he said. "Obviously, my First Amendment rights have been violated."
De Posada said Democrats were elected on empty promises of immigration reform in 2008. He also attacked Republican efforts to criminalize illegal immigrants or deny children of illegal immigrant's citizenship rights, policies supported by Angle, whom he called "irresponsible."
"I would rather not vote for anyone than be forced to vote for the lesser of two evils," he said.
De Posada is the former director of Hispanic affairs for the Republican National Committee. He also worked on Social Security reform under former President George W. Bush, who supported an immigration overhaul that would have allowed illegal immigrants to apply for legal status.
Angle's campaign distanced itself from the ad, but stopped short of criticizing it.
"We encourage all Nevadans to vote and they should vote for Sharron Angle because Harry Reid is only out for himself and his wallet," said spokesman Jarrod Agen.
The ad flap was one of several major developments in the race:
-- A Canadian diplomat called on Angle to denounce her recent remarks that the "northern border is where the terrorists come through."
Angle's campaign insisted terrorists do enter the country through the northern border, citing the 1999 arrest of an Algerian convicted of trying to bomb Los Angeles International Airport on the millennium. A spokesman for the Canadian embassy said it was just one case that happened more than a decade ago.
-- Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio met with the Tea Party Express at a country bar Tuesday as it rolled through Las Vegas on its trip across the nation. Arpaio said President Barack Obama needs him to resolve the country's immigration crisis, and offered to help Nevada open its own tent city for detained illegal immigrants.
-- A group of U.S. senators that works to elect fellow Democrats released a TV spot urging Nevadans not to punish Reid for Nevada's woeful economy.
-- A third-party group called Crossroads GPS, backed by Republican operative Karl Rove, started airing a new TV spot in Nevada that blames Reid for the Silver State's stalled economy.
Hours after the Latino commercial was unveiled, the Nevada Democratic Party and Hispanic leaders in Las Vegas urged media outlets to boycott the ad. They called the spot un-American.
Hispanics make up more than 25 percent of Nevada's population and Democrats have directed intense voter outreach efforts toward the community in recent years.
Hispanics frustrated over unfulfilled promises on immigration reform could be receptive to the campaign's message, said John Tuman, chair of the political science department and director of the Latin American Studies Program at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.