Other Voices

GOP has a problem with Hispanics, and its name is Trump

Anglo voters handed Donald Trump a victory in Florida’s Republican primary election on Tuesday.
Anglo voters handed Donald Trump a victory in Florida’s Republican primary election on Tuesday. EFE

Republican front-runner Donald Trump laughs off claims that he is a pathological liar, but his assertion that Hispanics love him is about as loco as it gets.

While most politicians stretch the truth, Trump has come under increased criticism in recent days for saying things that have no connection to reality.

Fact-checking of Trump’s speeches over the course of one week by the influential magazine and website Politico found he made one inaccurate statement every five minutes on average.

“His remarks represent an extraordinary mix of inaccurate claims about domestic and foreign policy and personal and professional boasts that rarely measure up when checked against primary sources,” Politico said.

For instance, Trump constantly claims that the United States has a $500 billion-a-year trade deficit with China, and that undocumented Mexican immigrants are flooding the United States.

U.S. Census figures show the U.S. trade deficit with China is much smaller, and immigration from Mexico has fallen over the past six years.

PolitiFact, a fact-checking news outlet, concluded recently that 76 percent of Trump’s statements are mostly or totally false.

One of the most bizarre of all of Trump’s claims is “the Hispanics love me,” despite his statement that most Mexican immigrants are bad people, his calls for mass deportation of 11 million undocumented immigrants and his campaign to build a wall along the border.

In fact, a new Gallup poll shows that only 12 percent of U.S. Hispanics have a favorable opinion of Trump, while 77 percent have an unfavorable view of him.

By comparison, 59 percent of Hispanics have a favorable view of Democratic hopeful Hillary Clinton.

Exit polls in Florida’s Republican primary, which Trump won by a landslide, show that he won across the state largely thanks to white Anglo-Saxon voters. But he lost in heavily Hispanic Miami, where Sen. Marco Rubio won.

Hispanics made up only 17 percent of Florida’s Republican voters in Tuesday’s primaries. Of that statewide percentage, 52 percent of the vote went for Rubio and only 27 percent for Trump, exit polls show.

“Donald Trump is the most unpopular general-election candidate in modern American history among Latino voters,” says Frank Sharry, leader of America’s Voice, a pro-immigration think tank in Washington, D.C.

He added that this will pose a serious problem for the Republicans if Trump is picked as the party’s candidate for the November elections, considering that most Latinos vote Democratic.

“Remember, we are talking about a general election where Republicans will need 42 to 47 percent of the Latino vote to win,” Sharry said.

Democratic pollster Fernan Amandi, of the Bendixen & Amandi polling firm, told me that Trump’s poor showing among Florida Hispanics confirmed that Trump has very little support among Latinos.

“Trump may love Hispanics, but Hispanics don’t love Trump,” Amandi said. “The Republican Party continues to have a problem with Hispanics, and that problem’s name is Donald Trump.”

Judging from national polls and Florida primary exit polls, Trump’s claim that “the Hispanics love me” is a prime example of his habit to distort the facts and repeat falsehoods.

When a Gallup poll shows that 77 percent of Latinos nationwide have an unfavorable view of you, it takes some nerve to claim the opposite.

If he becomes the Republican nominee, Trump may have to decide whether to mend fences with Latinos or to focus on drawing angry, disaffected new Anglo voters by raising his rhetoric against Mexicans and Hispanics in general.

Given his dismal support among Latinos, he may do the latter.

Andres Oppenheimer is a Latin America correspondent for the Miami Herald. aoppenheimer-