If the election ends badly for Republican nominee Donald Trump, he will find plenty of factors to blame, but one will stand out — his remarks disparaging Hispanics, an electorally powerful minority that is rooting for his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
They have been turning out in numbers larger than ever during early voting, giving Clinton the edge in key battleground states such as Florida and Nevada and putting Arizona, which has historically been solidly Republican, in play. Clinton visited Arizona for the first time this election on Wednesday, accompanied by her running mate Tim Kaine who gave a speech completely in Spanish.
“For the first time in a long time Arizona is competitive,” Kaine said, calling on supporters to vote early immediately after the rally. “The power of the Latino vote can make a big difference in many states, in a historic way.” He went on to call Trump a “payaso”, Spanish for clown.
In the final push to the finish, with four days to polling, Clinton has been focussed on minorities, deploying powerful surrogates such as President Barack Obama to rally African Americans, who prefer her to Trump overwhelmingly, but have been much slower to turn out and vote than in 2008 and 2012 when the president was on the ballot. Obama was in North Carolina, which has a large black population, on Wednesday and back again on Friday to encourage it to cast its votes early.
Clinton leads Trump in polls — by 1.7 points in the RealClearPolitics average — but the Republican has caught up considerably in recent days, wiping out a deficit of over seven points from around the first debate. He has also improved his chance of winning significantly, going up from 12% in the FiveThirtyEight forecast in mid-October to nearly 40% on Friday.
Both candidates and their allies have been barnstorming battleground states — Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Colorado, Nevada and Ohio — in a bid to secure their respective paths to 270, the electoral college threshold for winning. Though Trump has been catching up as the race has tightened in recent days, Clinton retains the lead.
Her support among minorities will be key to her success. Hispanics, or Latinos as they are also known, comprise an estimated 12% of voters (nearly the same as African Americans, according to the Pew Research Center), and Clinton leads Trump by almost 50 points among them, according to a poll released on Thursday.
The Clinton campaign is hoping to wrap up key battleground states such as Florida, Nevada and now Arizona with their support. Robby Mook, her campaign manager, told donors on Thursday that the campaign expected to win Florida, Nevada and North Carolina in large part because of Hispanic turnout, according to reports.
Trump completely alienated Hispanics, who have not yet warmed up to the Republican party, through a string of disparaging remarks starting from the day he launched his campaign. He called them rapists and criminals and promised to build a wall along the border with Mexico to stop illegal immigration.
While the wall caught the imagination of his core Republican voters, his remarks about Hispanics being criminals burnt him completely with the community, which he compounded later by clashing with Alicia Machado, a former beauty queen.
A high-profile visit to Mexico for a meeting with the country’s president, Enrique Pena Nieto, collapsed amid claims and counterclaims about the promised wall and who will pay for it — Trump insisted Mexico will, while Nieto disagreed publicly.
“The Trump candidacy and the climate it’s created has really heightened the importance and the personal nature of this election for Latinos,” Yvanna Cancela, political director of Culinary Workers Union 226, which represents casino workers in Nevada, told The Washington Post.