by Philip Rucker and Reis Thebault
President Trump, whose crackdown on illegal immigration and incendiary rhetoric about Latinos have been hallmarks of his first term, made a direct appeal here Monday night to Hispanic voters to secure him a second term.
At a rollicking rally in New Mexico, his first visit as president to this border state controlled by Democrats, Trump infused his typical campaign rally attacks on political opponents and the media with sweeping declarations of Latino support for his reelection.
“Yesterday marked the beginning of the Hispanic Heritage Month — who’s Hispanic here?” Trump asked the cheering crowd of several thousand supporters at the Santa Ana Star Center on the outskirts of Albuquerque, many of whom waved “Latinos for Trump” signs. “Incredible people . . . we have much to celebrate.”
After touting the low unemployment rate for Hispanic Americans as well as for all Americans, Trump said, “We’re working night and day to deliver a future of limitless opportunity for our nation’s Hispanic American citizens, including many extraordinary Mexican Americans.”
Trump’s proclamations belie the reality measured in public-opinion surveys, which show overwhelming majorities of Hispanic Americans disapproving of his job performance. Trump’s approval rating among Hispanic adults nationally stood at 25 percent in a Washington Post-ABC News poll this month, with 67 percent disapproving. That is 13 points lower than Trump’s overall job approval rating of 38 percent.
In head-to-head matchups with Democratic front-runner Joe Biden, combined Post-ABC polls in September and early July found Trump trailing 71 percent to 26 percent, which is similar to his losing margin among Hispanics in his 2016 race against Hillary Clinton, according to exit polling.
Hispanics make up almost half of the population in New Mexico, the highest share of any state, according to the Census Bureau.
Trump lost New Mexico to Clinton by eight percentage points, and since 1992 a Republican has won the state only once in a presidential election.
Trump’s advisers insist that he is serious about contesting the state and expanding his appeal with minority voters, in part on the strength of the economy.
“We will campaign for every vote, and we will win the great state of New Mexico,” Trump said. “The Democrats want to completely annihilate New Mexico’s economy. . . . The Democrats will never get the chance because New Mexico will never give them that chance.”
But Democrats here say that is nonsense.
“New Mexicans certainly don’t approve of pulling families apart or putting kids in cages,” New Mexico Democratic Party Chairwoman Marg Elliston said. “We’re ready for leadership that celebrates our immigrant communities, not demonizes them.”
In his rally remarks here, Trump hit familiar notes, including a pledge to uphold Second Amendment gun rights, which drew some of the most sustained applause of the night.
“I will never, ever allow [Democrats] to take away your sacred right to keep and bear arms,” Trump said, overstating the gun policy proposals of most Democrats.
Trump also forcefully defended the character and integrity of Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, calling him “a great, brilliant man” and urging resignations at the New York Times, which reported over the weekend a new accusation of sexual abuse against Kavanaugh.
Trump predicted that he would win a far greater share of the Hispanic vote than polls currently suggest because of, not in spite of, his hard-line immigration policies.
“The Hispanic Americans understand they don’t want criminals going across the border, they don’t want people taking their jobs, they want security, and they want the wall,” Trump said. “They want the wall.”
Trump singled out in the audience one of his higher-profile television boosters, Steve Cortes, complimenting him on his CNN appearances. “He happens to be Hispanic, but I’ve never quite figured it out because he looks more like a WASP than I do. . . . But I’ll tell you what, there is nobody that loves this country more or Hispanics more than Steve Cortes.”
Trump then addressed Cortes and asked: “Who do you like more: The country or Hispanics? He says the country. I don’t know, I may have to go for the Hispanics, to be honest. We love our Hispanics!”