The Outrage Machine is a weekly opinion column by voices from the left and right on Washington.
Señor Trump, felicidades!
Donald Trump is touting his win with Latino voters in the recent Republican Nevada caucuses. He was up against two Latino GOP candidates and, according to entrance polls, he garnered the same percentage of Latinos as both of them combined. And boy is he using the heck out of that talking point.
Is Trump right about his Nevada GOP win with Latinos? There is too little empirical information to say for sure, but given his margins, it’s probably true. Does the apparent win bode well for the reality TV star’s performance in the GOP primary season? Yes. Will it bode well for him and the GOP in the general election? No. The fact that neither Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.) or Ted Cruz (Texas) — both of Cuban descent — could stump Trump with Latinos should be a very loud and alarming wake-up call for both of them.
Both Rubio and Cruz are vying for the “anti-Trump” vote. There is no easier demographic to target as the “anti-Trump” candidate than Latinos. If the entrance poll results accurately represent Latinos in Nevada, they speak volumes about how tragically incompetent the Cruz and Rubio campaigns are, and how dismally their candidacies are seen by Latinos, even in their own party.
But let’s be clear, we are talking about a very small sliver of Nevada Latinos overall who today call themselves Republicans. That number has been steadily dwindling since 2010 when Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle angered Latinos with a deplorable, racist campaign.
Let’s break down the numbers from the Feb. 23 Nevada GOP caucuses: Trump got 34,531 votes out of a total of 74,878. Approximately 8 percent of the GOP electorate was Latino, so presumably Latinos cast around 5,990 votes. If Trump got 45 percent of that total (according to entrance polls, which are inherently flawed especially when extrapolating subgroups such as Latinos), Trump received around 2,696 Latino votes.
That’s hardly a resounding endorsement from an ethnic group that boasts more than 28 million eligible voters, and who in the latest surveys holds an unequivocally and overwhelmingly negative impression of Trump. As keenly pointed out by Telemundo’s Maria Celeste during the last GOP debate, 80 percent of Latinos in this country currently disapprove of the mogul.
Regardless, if we have learned nothing these past several months, let us acknowledge that Trump is not concerned with facts, figures (unless they are poll numbers showing him winning) or what they might mean in the long run. He is concerned with the here and now, which means the businessman will gloat about how he won the Hispanic vote in Nevada regardless of whether that victory translates to the overall Latino population.
It does not.
What should really be of concern to Sens. Rubio and Cruz, who are duking it out for second place in the GOP primary, is that their heritage as Latinos meant absolutely nothing to Latinos in Nevada. More importantly, their campaigns did little to reach out to Latino voters and if they did make any sustained effort, it appears to have been ineffective. As such, Trump’s message — regardless of what he has said about Mexican immigrants, building a wall, and sending people back — resonated more strongly with Latinos than anything on which Cruz and Rubio campaigned.
Some Latinos actually agree with Trump on making people accountable to the law. They say they followed the law, applied for visas and waited in line to come to the United States legally, and they feel it would be unfair to give undocumented immigrants a pass. Most Latinos however, even those who came here legally, express sympathy for hard-working undocumented families and children who are desperately looking for a better life.
Don’t get me wrong. It does not surprise me that Cruz and Rubio have little affinity with Latinos – in either party. I have always said that Latinos do not vote for candidates based on surname. They look at the records, the message, and the vision. And they found Cruz and Rubio wanting in all three departments.
As a Latina, I cannot for the life of me understand how any other Latino or Latina would or could support someone like Trump. That sentiment also extends to Rubio and Cruz.
Some of the most recent disconcerting moments I have seen during Republican debates were when Rubio and Cruz viciously attacked each other and tried to one up their rival on who would be tougher against undocumented immigrants. It has been mind-boggling to see two Latinos fighting over who would treat Latinos worse.
This is especially true when you review the history of both senators on immigration. Rubio was once all-in for comprehensive immigration reform, co-sponsoring the Senate Gang of Eight bill. That is, until he decided to run for president. He then cowardly kowtowed to the right, and firmly disavowed his measure. He has become a hard-liner on immigration ever since.
Cruz once offered an amendment to the Gang of Eight bill that would offer legal permanent residency to those living here without documents, and said on the Senate floor that he supported bringing people out of the shadows. Cruz has since disavowed those comments. But their track records on the issue make it harder to trust either senator on anything they say.
So in a way, I understand why Latinos might go for Trump. The two Latino candidates are not doing anything or saying anything to or for Latinos. On any issue.
On economic issues, Trump wants America to win and be great again. This is at least aspirational and a core economic message that is appealing to many, including some Latinos. On immigration, at least with Trump, what you see is what you get. No hypocrisy. Latino voters may believe, as others do, that Trump is “telling it like it is.”
The real red flag here is for Republicans in the general election. Latinos are leaving the Republican Party in droves, and the likes of Trump — and many other Republicans before him — who have engaged in racist anti-immigrant rhetoric are the culprits. Come November, there will be no Republican in the White House if the GOP nominee does not do substantially better with Latinos than Mitt Romney in 2012 (27 percent) or John McCain (31 percent) in 2008.
The Republican nominee will need to garner at least 42 percent of the Hispanic vote in order to win. Trump, with his high negatives among Latinos, will not clear that threshold.
Judging from what happened in Nevada, Cruz and Rubio probably won’t do much better.
Maria Cardona is a Democratic strategist and principal at the Dewey Square Group and a CNN and CNN Español pcommentator. She’s also a fellow at the George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management.