There were points in this campaign where Helen Aguirre Ferré admits she was nervous about Donald Trump’s tone toward Hispanics.
But Ferré, the director of Hispanic communications for the RNC, sat down with TPM for an interview Wednesday with exit polls from CNN and laid out why she thought Trump had even outrun Romney.
In 2012, exit polls showed Romney with 27 percent of the Latino vote. Trump got 29 percent.
In Florida and Texas, Trump had earned 35 and 34 percent of the Latino vote respectively, In North Carolina, he had a whopping 38 percent. In Nevada, he captured 27 percent and in, New Mexico he got 32 percent.
It’s a stunning outcome if you step back and remember how Trump started his campaign. He started it by painting undocumented immigrants in the country as “rapists.” Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) said that Trump’s attacks on a judge’s “Mexican” heritage were the “textbook definition of racism.”
But Aguirre Ferré notes that there was something else going on in the Hispanic community. For minority voters, the slow economic recovery has been even harder than it has been for white Americans. The economy, Aguirre Ferré said, was a major factor.
“Hispanics are not a monolithic community nor are we one issue [voters] ” she said. “Just like any other American, we question as well and we’re also living in an economy that barely crawls through.”
Aguirre Ferré hypothesized that Latino voters are still feeling the brunt of a slower economic recovery and some likely were drawn to Trump’s economic message.
“Hispanics are entrepreneurial so when you look at how regulations have really hurt and impeded small businesses –mom and pop shops– that really matters,” she said.
She added Trump’s message of school choice also likely played a factor as did the evangelical Latino population’s concerns for social issues and religious freedom.
But at a grassroots level, Aguirre Ferré argued that Republicans had put in the time this cycle that they hadn’t in terms of Latino outreach staff. Even as the top of the ticket might have been antagonistic at times, Aguirre Ferré noted that over the last four years, the RNC had hired 70 Hispanic or bilingual staffers to work in Latino communities.
“Sometimes, yeah, the rhetoric was worrisome. I’m not gonna tell you no. There were some things said in this campaign on both sides and tolerance and issues that are said in ways that are disparaging or uncomfortable or just not in line with the way we work and express ourselves at the Republican National Committee,” Aguirre Ferré said. “But having said that there are a lot of Hispanics who are tired of being played by both parties. So when you support someone like Donald Trump, it’s not like you’re supporting a a traditional Republican Party person. You can’t say he’s part of the traditional establishment or part of political class.”
In terms of what comes next, Aguirre Ferré was optimistic that immigration reform was coming down the pike and that undocumented immigrants in the country would not be deported if they didn’t have criminal records.
“Dreamers have every right to Dream and we are going to work very hard to ensure that we have an immigration policy that first of all makes legal immigration easier and illegal immigration harder. If you are an undocumented criminal, you will be deported,” Aguirre Ferré said. “If you are not a criminal, you will not be deported. And there is going to be a great effort made in the next two years to work in a bipartisan fashion to enact meaningful legislation to really bring about immigration reform.”