Hispanics stick with Trump despite tough border stance

President Trump is poised to launch his 2020 reelection as popular with Hispanic voters as other Republicans, bucking predictions that provocative nationalist rhetoric and hard-line border policies would crater his support with this critical bloc.

When Trump, four years ago Saturday, descended the escalator to the lobby of his iconic New York skyscraper and announced his first campaign, he riffed that Mexicans "with lots of problems," including rapists, were crossing the southern border. Many Republicans, establishment and otherwise, were mortified. They fretted that nominating Trump, never mind electing him, would permanently doom the GOP with Hispanics.

It hasn’t worked out that way. Available polling consistently shows Hispanic support for the president at around 30% — about the same as it has been for many Republican politicians post-George W. Bush and pre-Trump.

Indeed, Some party insiders focused on improving Hispanic support for the GOP now contend that he has room to grow with this cohort in next election.

“He starts in a much better place for reelection than when he launched his 2016 campaign,” said Daniel Garza, a Bush administration veteran who runs the Libre Initiative, a Koch network group that encourages Hispanics to embrace conservative policies.

“One would think immigration would be a major anchor for him, but he’s turned it into at least a push,” he said, suggesting his policies would neither harm nor help the president.

That’s quite a turnabout for Garza. Here is what he told the Washington Examiner about Trump in August 2015: “His positions are indefensible. I would actually rise up against him.”

In 2016, Trump captured 28% of the Hispanic vote, according to national exit polls. That was virtually identical to the 27% of Hispanics that Republican nominee Mitt Romney won four years earlier. In the midterm elections, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, garnered 35% of the Hispanic vote, according to statewide exit polling. That figure was in line with how Republicans have performed in Texas recently.

This month, in a YouGov poll for The Economist, Trump’s job approval rating among Hispanics clocked in at 29%. On immigration, presumably a tougher issue for the president with this demographic, it was 30%. The survey, conducted June 9-11, had an error margin of 3 percentage points.

Republicans who have studied turnout patterns attribute Trump’s relative resiliency with Hispanic voters at least partly to standard party loyalty. It turns out that about 30% of Hispanics tend to vote Republican, plus or minus a few percentage points, and this group tends to be just as loyal as most other GOP groups.

“It’s because they’re die-hard Republicans,” said Joe Heck, a Republican and former Nevada congressman from Las Vegas who represented a swing district and usually overperformed with Hispanics. He suggested Trump’s support among Hispanics has a floor that he can depend on. “The bigger question is: How do you expand and try and make inroads?”

That question has consumed Republicans since suffering declines from the party’s high water mark in 2004. In that contest, Bush received at least 40% of the Hispanic vote on his way to winning reelection.

Even though Trump has not tanked the party with this community, the roughly 30% of its vote the GOP can apparently count on is dangerously low for competitive contests. It can leave Republicans too reliant on the white vote, the largest segment of the voting population nationally but one that is declining. For example, Hispanics are expected to comprise a plurality of voters in Texas by the middle of the next decade.

Albert Morales, senior political director for Latino Decisions, a group that studies the Hispanic vote, said Trump confronts enormous challenges in his bid to hold the line. Hispanics have typically not voted in numbers great enough to impact elections. But Morales said recent Latino Decisions polling found that 80% of Hispanics intend to vote in 2020.

That figure “is usually around 50%,” Morales said. Republicans hope a booming economy will supersede Hispanics’ lingering reservations about Trump over his crackdown on illegal immigration and aggressive tactics to secure the border. Morales was doubtful, explaining that Hispanic anger at the president’s policies evident in the midterm elections has not dissipated.

“I think that question needs to be posed to the 40 Republicans who lost their [House] seats," Morales said concerning whether the economy would be enough. "That’s what they were relying on last cycle, but it just wasn’t enough,” Morales said.

Original content can be located at Washington Examiner