The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Early voting by Latinos may help Clinton in several states

What's in the latest Washington Post-ABC News tracking poll (Video: Peter Stevenson/The Washington Post)

Even as the electoral map shows new signs of volatility, a surge in early voting by Latinos is bolstering Hillary Clinton’s prospects in battleground states including Arizona, Florida and Nevada in the closing days of a tightened race against Donald Trump.

Fresh election data suggest that the Democratic nominee appears to be benefiting from upticks in participation by Latinos, who historically vote in lower numbers than the electorate overall. The trend, say advocates seeking to expand the Hispanic vote, is largely motivated by distaste for Trump, who has proposed hardline immigration policies and stirred emotions from the outset of his campaign with a series of controversial statements about Mexicans and other Latinos.

“The Trump candidacy and the climate it’s created has really heightened the importance and the personal nature of this election for Latinos,” said Yvanna Cancela, political director of Culinary Workers Union 226, which represents casino workers in Nevada.

According to the data firm Catalist, one of the largest increases of early voting by Latinos is taking place in Arizona, a traditionally Republican state that Clinton visited for the first time during the general election on Wednesday. Her running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, delivered a speech there in Thursday entirely in Spanish.

Significant upticks are also taking place in Nevada and Florida, two other states where a burgeoning Hispanic vote could prove key in determining the outcome.

What Donald Trump is doing on the campaign trail

MANCHESTER, NH - NOVEMBER 7: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign event at SNHU Arena in Manchester, NH on Monday November 07, 2016. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

With Latinos accounting for about half of its 57,000 members, the culinary union in Nevada has launched an unprecedented door-knocking and phoning effort to urge members and their neighbors to cast their votes early.

In Florida, more Latinos had voted early as of Wednesday than did so during the entire early voting period in 2012, according to the Clinton campaign. Some of the biggest registration gains there have come along the Interstate 4 corridor, which has witnessed a big influx of Puerto Ricans since in the wake of the island’s economic difficulties.

More modest increases in Latino participation, meanwhile, are being seen in battleground states including Colorado and Virginia, where most polls show Clinton with a shrinking lead over Trump. Manassas Park, a suburb in the fast-growing Washington region with the highest concentration of Latino voters in Virginia, has seen an uptick in absentee voting, as has surrounding Prince William County, according to the state elections board.

In Texas, a red state where Trump maintains a lead in polling, counties with the highest shares of Latino voters, all located along the Mexican border, have also seen surges in early voting, according to the office of the secretary of state.

Among Hispanics, Clinton maintained roughly a 50 percentage point lead in a new Washington Post-Univision News poll released Thursday, with Trump’s deep unpopularity raising questions about how much his candidacy has hampered Republicans’ long-term chances to win back support from the nation’s largest minority-group voting bloc.

Poll: Trump deeply unpopular among Latinos, who favor Clinton by more than 3 to 1

At the same time, early voting among African Americans — another key part of the constituency Clinton is counting upon to prevail — until recent days had been lagging voter participation from four years ago.

Clinton sought to shore up support among black voters during a pair of appearances in North Carolina on Thursday in which she argued that Trump’s vision for his presidency would leave them behind.

“He has spent this entire campaign offering a dog whistle to his most hateful supporters,” Clinton told a crowd of about 1,800 on the grounds of Pitt Community College. “He retweets white supremacists and spreads racially tinged conspiracy theories.”

Clinton noted that Trump has been repeatedly accused of housing discrimination at his real estate properties — and that he repeatedly proclaimed the guilt of five black and Hispanic men, known as the Central Park Five, on assault and rape accusations, even after DNA evidence exonerated them.

“Do any of us have a place in Trump’s America?” Clinton asked.

Republicans pointed to some favorable trends in absentee and early voting numbers for their standard-bearer, including upticks in GOP participation in counties in Ohio that Mitt Romney, the party’s 2012 nominee, carried. Ohio, which has a large white, working-class population, is among the swing states where Trump has shown the most appeal.

As the race has tightened nationally, Trump has sought to put several Democratic-leaning states in play that share similar demographics, including Wisconsin and Michigan, which figure in his ticket in the race’s closing days.

His campaign has also been buoyed by tightening poll numbers in New Hampshire, a largely white state that Clinton until recently appeared to have locked down.

On Thursday, Trump also appeared in North Carolina, a state key to his political fortunes.

In Concord, N.C., Trump cast Clinton as a “candidate of yesterday” and complained that he is held to a different standard than his Democratic rival.

At his rally, Trump continued to draw attention to the FBI’s renewed inquiry into Clinton’s email practices while she was secretary of state, when she used a private server.

“Now she’s got bigger problems. If she were to win, it would create an unprecedented constitutional crisis that would cripple the operations of our government,” Trump said.

The GOP nominee also criticized now-interim Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Donna Brazile, after an email released by the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks indicated that she had provided debate questions in advance to the Clinton campaign. Trump said that if he had done something similar, he would have faced a bigger backlash.

“Headlines: ‘Trump to leave race,’ ” Trump said, opining about what the media reaction would have been had that happened.

Clinton’s oft-changing travel schedule provides clues to the day-by-day, hour-by-hour evaluation of the campaign map.

As race tightens, Clinton campaign is counting on minority support

Her campaign is balancing a need to solidify support in Colorado, New Hampshire and Michigan with efforts to counter Trump’s momentum in Florida and North Carolina. Bill Clinton made a sudden detour to Detroit on Thursday for outreach aimed at black voters, also a sign of where the campaign sees potential signs of trouble. Hillary Clinton will be there Friday.

Clinton has several ways to assemble the needed 270 electoral votes that do not depend on winning all three of the closest, biggest contests now — Florida, Ohio and North Carolina. But all depend on holding a bedrock of states such as Michigan that have seemed out of play for months.

Both campaigns announced new television ad buys for Michigan for the final week of the campaign. Trump was already advertising there, but Clinton hadn’t aired ads in the state since the Democratic primaries.

Trump’s slim path to victory most likely depends on peeling off a Democratic-leaning state such as Michigan or Wisconsin atop run-the-table victories in Florida, Ohio, North Carolina and Iowa.

Clinton’s effort to pick up Arizona — or at least force Trump to spend time and money there — reflects confidence in her current standing, aides say, as well as a belief that the Latino voting numbers give her a fighting chance.

Kaine delivered an entire campaign speech in Spanish on Thursday evening in Phoenix, where he stressed his belief in a brand of inclusive politics that celebrates diversity. He criticized Trump’s controversial rhetoric about immigrants, calling the GOP nominee a “payaso,” a clown, and specifically criticized his attacks on Judge Gonzalo Curiel and former Miss Universe Alicia Machado.

“For the first time in a long time Arizona is competitive,” Kaine said in Spanish, urging voters to vote early — and immediately after the rally. “The power of the Latino vote can make a big difference in many states, in a historic way.”

In Arizona, Latinos represented 13.2 percent of all early voters as of Tuesday, up from 11 percent at the same point in 2012 and 8.1 percent in 2008, according to Catalist, a firm that works with Democrats and progressive groups.

In Nevada, Latinos make up 11.8 percent of early voters so far, compared with 10.5 percent in 2012 and 9.1 percent in 2008. And in Florida, they accounted for 14.1 percent of all returned ballots as of Tuesday, up from 9.6 percent at the same point in 2008.

Among the groups seeking to bolster Latino participation this cycle is the Center for Community Change Action, which has targeted the battleground states of Florida, Nevada and Colorado.

Jeff Parcher, the group's communications director, said the aim is to get voters to the polls who haven't been participating in elections.

"These low-propensity voters are never targeted by the campaigns," he said, suggesting that if the drive is successful, it could be a "game changer" in states where the margin is close.

Xochitl Hinojosa, a Clinton spokeswoman, said the uptick in Latino early voting includes states with smaller Hispanic populations as well, such as North Carolina and Ohio.

"From the start of the campaign, we have made it a priority to have a strong Latino vote program that reaches voters where they are because we understand how critical this voting bloc is to winning on Tuesday," she said. "Over the next few days, you'll only see our efforts intensify in an effort to expand participation."

Jenna Johnson in Florida and North Carolina, Abby Phillip in North Carolina, and Scott Clement, Ed O’Keefe, Sean Sullivan and Karen Tumulty in Washington contributed to this report.