Hispanic leaders frustrated by silence from Trump campaign

Hispanic leaders frustrated by silence from Trump campaign
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Hispanic leaders are questioning whether Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpRussia's election interference is a problem for the GOP Pence to pitch trade deal during trip to Michigan: report Iran oil minister: US made 'bad mistake' in ending sanctions waivers MORE is serious about seeking the support of Latino voters as he runs for the White House. 

At least three prominent Hispanic groups have asked the presumptive GOP nominee to address them in recent weeks, including the business-focused Latino Coalition, which invited him to its upcoming conference in Washington. All three said they have yet to receive a response.

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Even Latino Republicans who are inclined to support Trump feel like they’re being ignored by the campaign and wish someone would call or answer their invitations to speak.

Ruben Estrada, president of the Latino National Republican Coalition’s New York chapter, is listed on the roster of Hispanic outreach volunteers for the Trump campaign but has yet to talk to anyone inside it. He said a friend of Trump’s approached him about the role.

“I am an extremely loyal Republican. I will support Trump ... but I haven’t seen the Trump campaign reach out the way they should,” Estrada, a veteran GOP operative, said Thursday.

“They have asked me to be a surrogate ... but it’s almost like I am getting it third-hand. 

The Trump campaign did not respond to requests for comment.

Polls indicate that Trump is in a deep hole with Hispanic voters, having alienated much of the bloc with his hard-line stance on immigration and statements that Mexico sends rapists and other criminals into the United States. 

Hispanic voters could be crucial in the presidential race. If few support Trump, his path to victory would be difficult. 

The Republican's campaign has been drawing up a list of potential Hispanic surrogates as it focuses on the general election in November, but the people being contacted say they have no idea whether the outreach is coming from the businessman or members of his inner circle.

“For me not to hear from [Trump or the campaign], I don’t get it,” Estrada added, saying the message he wanted to send to Trump is: “Help me help you.”

Trump is polling about 40 points behind likely Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump rips Krugman, NYT after columnist writes GOP no longer believes in American values Klobuchar jokes to Cuomo: 'I feel you creeping over my shoulder' but 'not in a Trumpian manner' Dems seek to rein in calls for impeachment MORE among Hispanic voters. And he created new controversy among Hispanics recently by attacking New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez (R) and by saying a federal judge should stop presiding over fraud lawsuits against Trump University because his Mexican heritage creates a “conflict of interest.”

GOP leaders appear to be growing frustrated with Trump’s approach.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Dem candidates sell policy as smart politics Overnight Defense: Trump ends sanctions waivers for buying Iranian oil | At least four Americans killed in Sri Lanka attacks | Sanders pushes for Yemen veto override vote McConnell: 'Time to move on' from Trump impeachment talk MORE (R-Ky.), who supports Trump, told CNN on Thursday that he worries the candidate could drive Hispanic voters away from the Republican Party the same way that Barry Goldwater alienated black voters in 1964. 

The head of Hispanic media relations at the Republican National Committee (RNC), Ruth Guerra, resigned this week, reportedly in part due to her discomfort about working to elect Trump. On Thursday, news reports said Guerra’s replacement tried to delete her own tweets that were critical of Trump.  

The RNC did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

Trump’s campaign knows he needs to improve his standing with Hispanics, recently posting a tweet saying, “I love Hispanics!” while eating a taco salad.

J.D. Gordon, a foreign policy expert and former Pentagon spokesman, has been doing some Hispanic outreach for the campaign. He has spoken to several people about getting involved and has done a number of Spanish-language media interviews on Telemundo and Univision.

Hispanic advocates speak warmly of their interactions with Gordon but question whether the candidate shares his seriousness about reaching out to Latinos. 

The Trump campaign has also recruited a handful of other Latino surrogates, including Sergio de la Peña, a consultant who has previously filmed ads for the RNC and advocates for education reform.

Although Trump has received numerous requests to address Hispanic groups, his only high-profile public address so far has been a brief cellphone video message sent to the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference in May. 

The National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO) invited Trump to address its upcoming Washington, D.C., conference but got no reply, according to the group president Arturo Vargas. 

“We have had the Republican and Democratic nominees for the last two presidential elections, and we fully expect to have both nominees in 2016," he said.  

"And not to appear before this audience, I think, sends a message about how you regard the NALEO constituency." 

Manuel Rosales has invited Trump to address the Latino Coalition’s small-business summit on June 15 in Washington.

Rosales, the secretary of the Latino Coalition’s board, said a Trump adviser told him a month ago that his invitation was being taken seriously, but he has yet to hear whether the candidate will attend.

The event would be a huge opportunity for Trump to connect with a pro-business Hispanic audience, Rosales said.

Rosales said he got the impression that the campaign is eager to expand its Hispanic outreach because the Trump adviser asked him to provide a list of Latino leaders who might be willing to act as surrogates. 

“I am more than willing to help if they want me to help,” said Rosales, who previously worked for the RNC but now represents a nonpartisan organization.

Hector Sanchez, who chairs the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, which represents 40 Hispanic organizations, says his group has sent three letters to the Trump campaign inviting the candidate to meet with them and be briefed on their policy agenda but have heard nothing back. 

“For us the door is open as long as we are having serious policy discussions,” Sanchez said.

Voto Latino, a voter outreach organization aimed at engaging Hispanics in the political process, is another group awaiting a response from the Trump campaign.

“Normally we work very closely with both the RNC and the [Democratic National Committee], and we haven’t had that same reception this year,” said Maria Teresa Kumar, president and CEO of Voto Latino. 

Kumar doesn’t believe the Trump campaign’s Hispanic outreach is either sufficient or serious.

“If anything, he’s doing [it] almost in jest,” said Kumar, citing Trump’s taco tweet.

There are some Hispanic groups that Trump will never win over. Many are either aligned with Democrats or so angry about Trump’s positions that they’ll never support him. 

Cristóbal Alex, president of the Latino Victory Fund, said the only thing his organization will accept from Trump is “total and unconditional surrender” from his “demagoguery of Latinos.”

And Lynn Tramonte, deputy director of America’s Voice, a pro-immigration organization, said, “Trump lost Latino voters when he said that most Mexicans are 'rapists' and 'criminals.' ” 

But there are enough Latino leaders open to hearing from Trump that if he made a serious effort at outreach, he could win some allies. 

Mario H. Lopez, president of the Hispanic Leadership Fund, said he could never support Clinton or her Democratic rival, Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersAndrew Cuomo: Biden has best chance at 'main goal' of beating Trump Poll: Buttigieg tops Harris, O'Rourke as momentum builds Buttigieg responds to accusation of pushing a 'hate hoax' about Pence MORE, “just on the face of it,” but added that Trump has made “no effort” so far to reach out to his organization. 

Lopez said he is hopeful Trump will get his act together.

“It seems as though he understands that he needs to do better with Latinos in order to improve his chances of winning,” he said.