The 'Trump Effect' Alienating Conservative Latinos
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Let's test a bit of conventional political wisdom. It's the idea that Donald Trump's presidential campaign will drive Latino voters away from the Republican Party.
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
Trump does not think so. He once declared, Latinos love Trump and I love them. Some surveys have shown his ratings among Latinos are no worse than other Republican contenders.
INSKEEP: It is true that Trump has shifted the focus of this campaign. He's captured attention with harsh descriptions of undocumented immigrants and a demand for better walls along the U.S.-Mexico border.
MONTAGNE: He has frustrated those who hoped for a different approach after Latinos voted overwhelmingly for Democrats in 2012. NPR's Asma Khalid met with some Latino Republican voters.
ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: I'm at a bar in northern Virginia with half a dozen young conservatives. They're at a networking event after work, snacking on chips and salsa.
RICKY SALABARRIA: It was nice meeting you guys.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Do you have a card?
SALABARRIA: Yes, I do.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: OK.
SALABARRIA: Let me give you one.
KHALID: I meet 22-year-old Ricky Salabarria, a stylish consultant with a pair of Ray-Bans tucked into his pink dress shirt. Salabarria is Republican and Hispanic, and he says he's no fan of Donald Trump.
SALABARRIA: He drowns out a lot of the conservative field, and it's very bad for the Republican Party.
KHALID: Salabarria's family is originally from Cuba and Spain. And he says slapping up a giant wall is no way to deal with illegal immigration. He's troubled by that kind of talk.
SALABARRIA: Being Hispanic, being gay, it all sort of, like, makes it hard to be a part of the GOP right now. I don't feel like my views are being represented very well.
KHALID: So I ask him, what keeps him a Republican?
SALABARRIA: I think a lot of it has to do with the idea of free market economy, limited government. I think those ideals still ring true, and I think that's at the core of what being a conservative is.
KHALID: Salabarria says social issues and immigration are eventually going to become nonissues because the party will evolve. And plus, he says, there are some GOP candidates with immigration ideas that appeal to him. Personally, he likes Jeb Bush. To be clear, the crux of the frustration for every Latino Republican I spoke to centers around Donald Trump and his hard-line immigration policies.
TOM NARVAEZ: It's disappointing what's going on with the party right now.
KHALID: That's 23-year-old Tom Narvaez. He grew up in Virginia. His parents came here from El Salvador.
NARVAEZ: If you want to win over the Latino community, you have to respect them. And I think that that's what some of the candidates are failing to do.
KHALID: Narvaez says he's a Republican because he believes in small government. But he says the immigration rhetoric these days, especially from Trump, is insulting. He pulls out his phone and reads me a tweet he sent to the GOP chairman the other night.
NARVAEZ: It says @GOP and @GOPChairman - minority votes just keep flying to the left. As a Latino, Donald Trump is what the GOP needs to lose my vote.
KHALID: Narvaez says few candidates are taking the issue of immigration seriously.
NARVAEZ: Out of all the candidates right now, I think Marco Rubio is the only one that has a record of actually trying to move forward with immigration.
KHALID: Rubio worked on the Senate's bipartisan comprehensive immigration bill. Narvaez says he personally is not going to be swayed to the left by this immigration chatter, but he's worried that the party could get a bad reputation. Alfonso Aguilar works with a conservative group on Latino outreach. And he says immigration may not be the No. 1 issue for Latino voters, but it's a gateway issue.
ALFONSO AGUILAR: It's an issue that you have to get right. It doesn't mean that you have to believe in mass amnesty or path to citizenship. You just have to show that you're constructive, that you're willing to, in an intelligent way, bring people out of the shadows, even if it's not a special path to citizenship.
KHALID: Aguilar says candidates, like Scott Walker, Ben Carson and Ted Cruz, who've tried to match some of Trump's rhetoric on immigration have already lost Latino voters.
AGUILAR: The spectrum of candidates that have potential to be appealing to Latinos, it's narrowing. Now I think, really, we're almost down to Gov. Bush, Marco Rubio, Carly Fiorina and Gov. Perry, and some of those are not viable. So, you know, that's part of the Trump effect.
KHALID: The Trump effect, Aguilar says, makes it hard to attract Latino voters, and Democrats, he says, are loving this moment. Asma Khalid, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.