CLEVELAND ― After he endorsed GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump earlier this week, Alfonso Aguilar, a Puerto Rican-born Republican, got an email from a “very visible, very prominent” fellow Latino conservative.
Aguilar had previously opposed Trump, calling the candidate’s comments about Mexican immigrants “ludicrous, baseless and insulting” and warning that the business mogul could doom the party’s chances with Latino voters. And while many people at the convention thanked him for his endorsement, he said, this prominent female conservative was upset.
“I got a very melodramatic email telling me ‘I am so sad. I am immensely disappointed,’” Aguilar said. “To which I said, ‘I’m immensely disappointed every time a Hispanic baby dies in this country, and that’s what would happen with Hillary Clinton as president.’” This was, of course, a reference to Clinton’s stance on abortion.
Aguilar’s attitude has been a common one at the Republican National Convention’s Latino-focused events ― that he’s a “hold-your-nose-and-vote” alternative to the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. While Latino conservatives are coming around to Trump, it seems to have very little to do with him, and a lot to do with her.
“We have to put this in perspective,” said Aguilar, who is president of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles. “I understand the animosity against Trump, but I think we’re called this election [to make] a practical vote.”
Trump says that Latinos love him, and certainly, there are some who do. Yet Clinton remains far more popular with Latinos as a whole: A NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Telemundo poll released Sunday put her Latino support at 76 percent to Trump’s 14 percent.
According to a poll released at the convention, less than half of self-identified conservative Latinos have a positive view of Trump, and less than one-quarter of Latino moderates do.
The “good news for Donald Trump” ― as The Latino Coalition, the group that commissioned the poll, described it in a handout ― is that 40 percent of those who expressed a “very negative” to “neutral” impression of Trump still said they were considering voting for him or were undecided. Meanwhile, about 60 percent of moderate and conservative Latinos surveyed had a negative view of Clinton.
“People simply just don’t like her,” said Ruth Guerra, a spokeswoman for American Action Network, a group that promotes Republicans, at a National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials panel on Tuesday. “So that gives Donald Trump another opportunity.”
Trump surrogate and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) acknowledged at a Latino Coalition lunch on Wednesday that many people dislike the Republican candidate for president. He talked far more about Clinton’s deficiencies than Trump’s merits, and ended up making a comment similar to the “vote your conscience” statement that elicited boos for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) at the convention on Wednesday evening.
“I’m not here today to make a hard political sell,” Christie said. “I am here to try to tell you the truth as I see it. You will make your judgment on who, in your heart, you believe is the best person to be the next president of the United States.”
“People simply just don’t like her. So that gives Donald Trump another opportunity.”
The GOP convention speeches have largely mentioned Latino immigrants ― especially undocumented ones ― in negative terms. Multiple speeches on Monday night referenced undocumented immigrants who killed Americans. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said immigrants are taking Americans’ jobs.
There were a few more positive moments: Kentucky state Sen. Ralph Alvarado Jr. (R) delivered a prime-time speech Wednesday that praised Latino immigrants, including his parents, and he even spoke in Spanish. But Alvarado, like others, didn’t so much praise Trump as he criticize Clinton and President Barack Obama.
“Americans face an important decision. Do we want someone who is brutally honest ― perhaps to a fault ― or do we want someone who is brutally dishonest?” he said.
Another positive comment about Latino immigrants on the main stage came from Rachel Campos-Duffy, the wife of Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.), who mentioned her grandparents coming to the U.S. from Mexico during her speech on Monday. When her husband spoke at the Latino Coalition event on Wednesday, he also talked mostly about Clinton instead of Trump. Afterward, when The Huffington Post asked him why, he said he wouldn’t speak to HuffPost.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said Sunday that Trump would conduct a “Hispanic engagement tour” soon, although he gave few details of what that would entail. The RNC did not make a spokesman available for an interview, and the Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
Bettina Inclán-Agen, who previously led Hispanic outreach for the RNC, said she hoped to see more Latino outreach from the Trump campaign and that she wants to support him ― but she’s just not there yet.
“I’ve been very vocal with my reservations on the tone and the statements that he has said, and I hope that moving forward we see more of someone who wants to reach out to all voters and less of some of the conversations and topics that have unfortunately dominated the headlines,” she said. “I want to be proud to show my son what I do for a living.”
Guerra’s departure from the RNC made headlines earlier this year, but she downplayed the idea that she left because of her opposition to Trump, saying instead that she was taking advantage of a good opportunity. But when HuffPost asked who she was planning to vote for in the fall, she just trailed off.
“I’m not voting for Hillary, so...” she replied.
Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims ― 1.6 billion members of an entire religion ― from entering the U.S.