BOULDER, Colo. -- On the eve of the third Republican presidential debate, an unprecedented gathering of two dozen top Hispanic conservative groups issued a stern warning to all candidates: Refrain from engaging in incendiary rhetoric on the campaign trail or we’ll refuse to support you in your bid for the White House.
The meeting, held less than a mile from the site of the debate at the University of Colorado's Boulder campus, was organized by the American Principles Project's Latino Partnership. It was also attended by leaders from other grassroots groups, including the Latino Coalition, Hispanic Leadership Fund and the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference -- all key groups engaged in building support for Republicans among the Latino community.
Officials present said that no campaign or party had spurred the meeting, but rather conservative activists desired to come off the sidelines to condemn inflammatory rhetoric about the Hispanic community -- a key demographic in the swing state of Colorado.
“We want candidates to know: We’re monitoring your language. We are monitoring what you propose. And we’re going to hold you accountable,” said Alfonso Aguilar, head of the American Principles Project's Latino Partnership.
Rosario Marin, former treasurer of the United States under President George W. Bush, put it much more bluntly.
"Heed our warning. Don’t expect us to come to your side during the general election. You are not with us now, we will not be with you then. You don’t need our vote now, you won’t have it then. You insult us now, we will be deaf to you then. You take us for granted now, we will not recognize you then,” she said.
Although she did not refer to him by name, Marin, who supports former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, made clear her remarks were directed at businessman Donald Trump, whose rhetoric about Hispanics has worried GOP officials.
“We have not worked on behalf of this party for decades only to see our community work undone by the divisiveness of some candidates,” she added. “I will not name names, but one in particular has earned my absolute disgust and contempt. I will not dirty my mouth by pronouncing his name. In fact, grouping him as a candidate is an insult to the serious candidates we have in this primary.”
The group of Hispanic leaders, which included small business owners, working moms and veterans, also discussed the rhetoric and proposals of other candidates in the 2016 presidential race, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Jeb Bush. But the activists made clear their ultimatum was directed at only one candidate, who continues to poll well in the race for the GOP nomination.
"At this point, I think we’ve been very clear that we are not going to endorse or attack any candidate besides Trump,” said Aguilar. "If we don’t see a course correction, then I think we may start naming other names."
The groups plan to meet again in December ahead of the Republican debate in Las Vegas, where they'll gauge the state of the race once more.
Democrats, however, panned the effort to isolate Trump as an objection grounded more in style rather than substance. Eric Walker, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee, compared the real estate mogul's record on immigration to that of his rivals for the GOP nomination.
“Whether it’s Donald Trump, Marco Rubio who abandoned the bipartisan immigration bill and voted to target immigrants just last week, or Jeb Bush who slurs the children born to undocumented immigrants, all of the Republican candidates would be a disaster for Latino families -- not to mention their economic policies, which would hurt Latino communities," said Walker.