Site icon Security Forum | David Firester, Ph.D.

GOP legislators fearing Hispanic blowback


One of the unspoken whispers fluttering back and forth in the back halls and byways of the GOP machine this election cycle is what will happen to the down-ticket vote. Republicans have been gaining with Hispanics in national polls in recent years, but Trump remains a polarizing figure in that voting bloc. Case in point: a top seller in South Texas? Donald Trump piñatas.

The Hispanics Vote

While Trump is courting Hispanics, he even made a trip down to Mexico recently, he knows he has other groups he can depend on for support. Not so for many legislators in predominately Hispanic districts. They need strong voter turnout to keep their seats, and Trump is making re-election a rocky proposition.

Especially after Trump’s Mexico trip didn’t go as many hoped it would. The whole push was supposed to be about reconciliation and finding a way to “make it work” for everyone. Then Trump returned and delivered a “back to form” immigration speech in which he once again said he would build a wall and Mexico would pay for it. He doubled down on some of his harshest rhetoric, describing some immigrants as violent criminals. While those labels are certainly true in some cases, and even some Hispanics like his tone, those comments don’t always play well in larger groups.

Support Declined

Some high-profile Hispanics who had been tacitly supporting Trump pulled their support after these remarks, and those moves are sending legislators in largely Hispanic districts reaching for the Maalox. This is especially true in some swing states – like Florida – with big Hispanic populations.

Former Treasury Secretary under GW Bush and now Florida Republican, Rosario Marin, told the AP this scenario is “a disaster for the party.” Marin is not alone in this assessment. Still, some Republicans are using this issue to draw attention and focus to the down ballot races rather than away from them. This strategy is to help uncertain voters feel “better” about voting Republican, Trump or not. It’s a similar strategy to the one employed by DEM operatives in reaching out to disaffected Bernie Sanders supporters. Sure, you may not like the main course, but don’t skip the appetizers.

David Firester specializes in intelligence analysis and is founder of TRAC Intelligence.

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