SAN DIEGO — Chappaqua, we have a problema.
First, the good news for the Clintonistas: The competition with presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump for Latino voters is no competition at all.
According to a new poll by Fox News Latino, Hillary Clinton makes mincemeat out of Trump with that important demographic. Seventy-four percent of Latinos have a negative view of Trump.
Anyone could have predicted that given how the Manhattan real estate mogul has gone out of his way to antagonize Latinos over the last 11 months.
The bad news is that, all things being equal, Latinos aren’t thrilled with “La Hillary” either. Many don’t trust her, don’t like her or both. The same poll that shows her with a 39 percent lead among Latinos shows that 41 percent have a negative view of her.
Before we unpack all that, let’s talk the three reasons why Latino voters are so important in the first place.
First, demographics. Latinos represent 17 percent of the population, yield 50,000 potential new voters every month as young Latinos turn 18, and could account for as many as 13 million voters in November.
Second, independence. Latinos—while solidly registered as Democrats, by a more than two-to-one margin—have demonstrated their unpredictability by voting for moderate Republicans who ask for their support.
Third, location. Latinos are strategically placed around the country and represent a large presence in three of the five battleground states that often decide presidential elections: Nevada, Colorado and Florida.
So this is the wrong group of voters to piss off. We know how Trump managed to, with an opening speech about rapists, a “big beautiful wall” and a “deportation force” that amounted to a slap in the face for Mexico and Mexicans—a subset that represents nearly 70 percent of Latinos in the United States.
Latinos have seen this movie before. They know they’ve been turned into the piñata of the 2016 election and that the person swinging the broken broom stick is Trump.
At this point, most Latinos absolutely loathe the billionaire businessman, who will be lucky to win 20 percent of the Latino votes in November—which would be an all-time low for Republican presidential candidates.
And yet, even with all that going for her, Clinton still can’t seem to close the deal. After talking to fellow Latinos over the last several months, I’ve come up with 10 reasons for the lackluster response:
—Clinton fatigue. Hillary Clinton has been in their living rooms for 25 years, and many are ready for a change.
—Trust. Like the majority of other Americans, much of the Latino community doesn’t trust Hillary or believe what she says.
—Her husband. President Clinton militarized the U.S.-Mexico border near San Diego with Operation Gatekeeper in 1994 and signed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, which divided families by making it easier to remove the undocumented and harder for them to return.
—Her Senate record. Clinton took up an immigration hardline that included voting for a Trump-style border wall and boasting to a conservative radio talk show host in New York that she was “adamantly against illegal immigrants.”
—Condescension. Clinton, who usually doesn’t speak to Latinos in non-election years, was clumsy during her 2008 presidential bid when she tried to connect to Latinos at a Las Vegas restaurant by referring to their problems as “chips” and “guacamole.”
—The Obama presidency. Hillary was at President Obama’s side for four years, as Secretary of State. Many Latinos resent Obama for deporting 3 million people and dividing hundreds of thousands of families. If she really was uncomfortable with what was happening, she should have spoken up earlier.
—Honduras. As Secretary of State, Clinton backed Honduran military forces after it ousted democratically elected president Manuel Zeyala in 2009 and pushed back against global pressure to reinstate him. The coup helped throw the country into chaos.
—Central American refugees. In summer of 2014, as about 80,000 women and children from Central America streamed across the Texas-Mexico border, Clinton told CNN that the refugees, even unaccompanied children, “should be sent back” to send a message. No hearing, no lawyer, no determination of refugee status. Just send them back.
—Caution. Latinos were burned by Obama, who they supported by wide margins in 2008 and 2012. Many seem prepared to support Hillary in 2016, especially over Trump, but they want to be more careful this time and get more ironclad guarantees upfront.
—Finally, there’s Bernie. Many Latinos are still excited about Bernie Sanders, and they’re swept up in the whole anti-establishment mood that other Americans have been caught up in as well since they’re marinating in the same juices.
We’re going to hear from more of those voters on June 7 when voters finally go to polls in delegate-rich California, where 39 percent of the population is Hispanic. Last week, Sanders got 11,000 people to turn out for a rally in Southern California.
Even if Clinton stays on track to win California and secure the nomination, as is very likely, Latinos for Bernie aren’t going simply go quietly into the Hillary camp. Many will just sit out this election. Mark my words.
Latinos are always saying that they don’t desire anything special, that they just want what other Americans want.
Believe it. In this election, many Latino voters want what about 50 percent of voters overall want: a third choice.