There is a growing fear among prominent Hispanic Republicans that Donald Trump will succeed — win the party’s nomination for president — and in so doing, slap the GOP with an anti-immigrant label it will take decades to overcome.
“If our party brings this insensitive, Hispanic-bashing man to a presidential election, I shudder to think where we’ll be among the largest and growing bloc of voters in America,” Jorge Madema, a Lee County Republican insider, told Sunshine State News on Monday. “We can kiss everything goodbye for years — the House, the Senate, the White House.”
It hasn’t helped that dozens of prominent Hispanic figures — many of them Republicans — came together in November to formally “condemn” Trump for comments he made against Hispanics since the beginning of his presidential campaign.
In a blistering statement published in Spanish on Univision.com, 67 scientists, historians, award-winning authors, lawyers and others from the United States, Latin America and Spain signed a statement denouncing Trump’s behavior and asking the American people to “stop tolerating his absurd views.”
Not only that, but more than three-quarters of Hispanics surveyed in November by the Public Religion Research Institute reported an unfavorable view of Trump. Fifty-nine percent of the respondents said they have a “very unfavorable” opinion of the billionaire celebrity-politician who is still sitting atop most polls of the GOP presidential field.
Conservative Hispanic leaders claim Trump doomed himself in the community right off the bat at his campaign launch, when he characterized Mexican immigrants as drug dealers and rapists.
Since then, in a kerfuffle less well-known by non-Hispanics, Trump filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against Univision because the nation’s leading Hispanic news network pulled out of its contract to broadcast his Miss Universe pageant. The suit is Trump’s way of returning fire. Two more incidents followed: Trump’s campaign staff kicked Univision anchor Jorge Ramos out of an event in August and and his campaign barred the network’s reporters from attending another event in October.
“His most egregious action that stands for the primary reason why he is persona non grata with the Latino community, including the Latino conservative community, is the engagement of demeaning, condescending, spiteful rhetoric as it pertains to the immigrant community,” said the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC).
The Hill newspaper reported that conservative Hispanic leaders warned at a press conference before the October Republican presidential debate in Boulder, Colo., that the GOP would attract few Hispanic votes if Trump winds up heading the party.
The long and short of it is, Trump’s incendiary rhetoric is throwing Hispanic Republican leaders into a panic. Many of them have elections of their own to win in heavily Hispanic districts.
Here’s what some prominent Florida Republicans had to say, as reported Monday in The Hill:
Freshman Rep. Carlos Curbelo, on what it would take to get him to support Trump if he wins the nomination … “He would have to start by apologizing to all the people he’s offended and for the mockery he’s made out of the presidential campaign. (Electing Trump) would do a great harm to our country and further erode the trust of the American people in their government.”
Long-time Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Jeb Bush supporter, said she feels honor-bound to support her party’s nominee, but if it’s Trump, it won’t be easy. “I represent an immigrant-rich community. Many of us are not happy with those (anti-immigrant) comments. Some don’t think that’s a problem. I do.”
Former Sen. Mel Martínez, who also supports Bush, said he hopes Trump doesn’t win — but he was careful to cast his remarks diplomatically. “I’m not ready to endorse Trump, let’s put it that way. I hope it doesn’t come to that. I hope there are some better choices for us. I think it’s about readiness to be president.”
Former Rep. Lincoln Díaz-Balart, who served 18 years in the House, on the the notion that Trump might win the nomination. “Ugh. I don’t even want to go there. I can’t see myself even there. In other words, I refuse to accept that possibility.”
Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart, Lincoln’s younger brother, said he would back Trump against Clinton, but he’s “hoping and praying” Bush can “right his foundering campaign” and win. “I will support whoever the nominee is. I think there’s nobody more qualified than Jeb Bush. I think he is ready from day one. That’s who I’m convinced will be our nominee. … It’s a long, difficult process and I don’t think it’s going to be Donald Trump.”
Traditionally, conservatives have won much of their support among Hispanics from groups like the NHCLC mobilizing voters and helping them get out the vote. But for Trump, that might be more difficult. The billionaire TV celebrity and real estate mogul won’t be easily forgotten in the Hispanic community.
“You’ll have the Latino Hispanic conservative leaders saying, ‘Yeah, we’re going to have to support him, the alternative is Hillary Clinton.’ But then you’ll have the followers saying, ‘I don’t think we can cross that bridge,’” said the NHCLC’s Rodriguez.
“I guarantee you, it’s more depressing and frightening for the party than any of us are saying,” said Madema.
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