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Endorsements from KKK Leaders and “El Diablo” Pete Wilson Not Likely to Help Already-Toxic GOP Brand Image with Latino Voters

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Recent nationwide polling of Latino voters, conducted by Latino Decisions and commissioned by America’s Voice, showed just how toxic Donald Trump is with Latino voters – a whopping 87% of Latino voters have either a “very” or “somewhat” unfavorable opinion of Trump.

Trump’s favorability rating is not likely to improve with the news of his new endorsement from a Virginia-based leader of the Ku Klux Klan, who said, “The reason a lot of Klan members like Donald Trump is because a lot of what he believes in, we believe in.” Of note, this latest KKK endorsement of Trump should not be confused with Trump’s past support from David Duke; Trump’s refusal to immediately disavow support from the KKK and Duke; Trump’s retweets of white nationalists and quotes from fascist leader Benito Mussolini; or Trump’s support from one of Europe’s most prominent anti-immigrant and xenophobes, Jean-Marie Le Pen. As Evan Osnos wrote in the New Yorker last year, the white nationalist and anti-immigrant movements view Donald Trump as a “standard-bearer,” capable of delivering “the appearance of legitimacy to a moral vision once confined to the fevered fringe.”

Writing in the Miami Herald, columnist Andres Oppenheimer assesses the implications of the new Latino Decisions polling and concludes that, “rather than being a threat to America, they [Latinos] will save America from Trump.”

Yet the recent Latino voter polling also revealed that the Republican Party’s problems with Latinos go much deeper than Trump alone. The brand image problems keep getting worse for the GOP – witness the fact that Trump’s main rival for the Republican nomination, Ted Cruz, proudly received the endorsement this weekend of former California Governor Pete Wilson. With Cruz and Wilson campaigning together in California, it’s worth remembering how the state represents a cautionary tale for the national Republican Party on how anti-immigrant politics can help accelerate the electoral consequences of demographic change. In the mid-1990s, California’s infamous Proposition 187 and the anti-immigrant politics of Governor Pete Wilson helped make the GOP brand toxic to the state’s rapidly growing ranks of Latino voters. As a result, California transformed from a purple state into a blue state, with Wilson still known in some circles of the Latino community as “El Diablo.” As the Pete Wilson endorsement underscores, Cruz is no moderate on immigration and is actually outlining an immigration vision that is to the right of Mitt Romney’s.

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, “Donald Trump has been running the most explicitly nativist presidential campaign in modern American history. We should not lose our collective shock or outrage that the leading contender for the Republican nomination is a magnet for KKK leaders who are rallying behind his vision for America. And no, Ted Cruz is not running the same type of openly racist campaign as Trump, but his hard-line immigration policy vision and his embrace of Pete Wilson remind us that the GOP’s divide with Latinos is much deeper than Trump alone. The KKK and ‘El Diablo’ Pete Wilson won’t exactly help repair Republicans’ problems with Latino voters, with huge implications for 2016 and well beyond.”