Nearly two years after launching a presidential campaign that frequently attracted criticism for comments about Latinos, President Trump is still trying to convince the demographic group that the GOP is the party for them.
At a Friday news conference for the signing of the $1.3 trillion spending bill, Trump used the moment to convince the nearly eight in 10 Latinos that voted against him in the 2016 election that his party supports them more than anyone else.
“I can tell you this, and I say this to DACA recipients, that the Republicans are with you. They want to get your situation taken care of. The Democrats fought us,” Trump said. “But I do want the Hispanic community to know and DACA recipients to know that Republicans are much more on your side than the Democrats, who are using you for their own purposes.”
Trump threatened to veto the bill earlier in Friday because he said young undocumented immigrants known as “dreamers” were “totally abandoned” in the bill.
Whether Latino voters believe the GOP is on their side, they at least don't approve of the president's job performance.
According to the most recent Gallup poll, only 1 in 5 Hispanic voters approve of the job that Trump is doing.
But even beyond job performance, the overwhelming majority of Hispanic voters have concerns about Trump's character. According to an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll, three-quarters of Hispanics say Trump is a racist.
Many conservatives — including Latinos — reject the idea that the Democratic Party provides a better alternative for Latinos than the GOP. Steve Cortes, president of the Trump Hispanic Advisory Council, previously wrote for Fox News:
“For far too long, the Democratic Party has shamelessly exploited race and ethnicity to create predictable voting blocks. But, despite big promises at election cycles, those same politicians have consistently failed to deliver tangible solutions to communities of color, as recent years see both a widening economic inequality vs. white households and a marked recent upturn in violent urban crime, which disproportionately afflicts blacks and Hispanics.
In contrast, in just nine months in office President Trump has already delivered real results for Hispanics in three key areas … with much more promise ahead!”
But other political strategists aren't sure that many Latino voters will be able to get past the messages they have heard from Trump and some GOP leaders related to DACA, misleading stats about MS-13-related gang violence and other issues.
“A whole generation of minority voters is essentially hearing the GOP tell them, ‘We don’t like you,’ ” Doug Heye, a former communications director for the Republican National Committee, previously told The Washington Post. “That might not have sunk the GOP against a flawed candidate like Hillary Clinton, but the demographics are moving into a direction where this will be political suicide.”
Unless things change significantly — as in the president and Congress proposing policies that Latino voters consider important — the GOP could continue to push voters away.