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Many Latino Men Are Supporting President Trump This Election

Supporters of President Trump wave during a Latinos for Trump roundtable last month at the Arizona Grand Resort in Phoenix.
Nick Oza/The Arizona Republic
USA Today Network via Reuters
Supporters of President Trump wave during a Latinos for Trump roundtable last month at the Arizona Grand Resort in Phoenix.

Reymundo Torres is an Arizonan, a devout Roman Catholic, ethnically Mexican and a staunch supporter of the president.

"The thing that initially attracted me and keeps me tied to him is that he has taught Republicans how to not just win, but no longer throw our faces and bodies in front of every punch that the left is willing to throw," Torres said.

Torres likes the way President Trump takes no mess from Democrats or what he calls establishment Republicans. Also, Torres said, it's refreshing to see a president do what he says he's going to do despite criticism — from Trump's fiery tweets, sometimes filled with misinformation — to his controversial decisions such as moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, a disputed territory.

Come Election Day top of mind for Torres will be Trump's remaking of the federal courts. The president has appointed more than 200 judges in his time in office. That, not immigration, is what Torres will be thinking of as he casts his ballot.

"My family's been in Arizona for more than 100 years. We don't see ourselves as immigrants," he said. "We're very much Arizonans and Americans. So to continue to treat us as if we're all still just fresh across the border, which most Republicans and a lot of Democrats would like to think we are — just to easily encapsulate us — is something that is not resounding."

The Latino vote will be key across the country, especially in tight races in places such as Arizona and Florida. This year, Latinos make up the largest nonwhite eligible voting bloc in the country, and according to polls, Torres is a part of about or over a quarter of Latinos who view this president favorably, with some polls showing Trump doing slightly better among Latinos in 2020 than he did in 2016.

And the backbone of that support comes from men. A New York Times/Siena College pollfound that former Vice President Joe Biden leads by 34 percentage points among Latina voters, but with Latino men his lead is 8 points.

"Hispanic men in particular are a swing vote," said Michelle Mayorga, a New Mexico-based pollster who worked on polls for Equis Research focused on Latino voters. "They are a vote that we have to go and get."

In polls by Equis Research in key swing states from Arizona to Nevada, Latino male voters show much more support for Trump than Latina voters.

While Democrats are projected to win the majority of Latino votes overall, the margins are narrower with men.

"Republicans will take a larger margin than maybe they have in the past or enough that it will start to eat into the Democratic margin," Mayorga said.

It may sound strange. This is a president who has called Mexican immigrants rapists and drug dealers, who has been accused of race baiting and whose presidency is haunted with images of migrant children separated from their parents in overcrowded detention centers.

But the support tracks with a Republican Party effort to court Latino voters over decades. Republican strategists turned to Latino communities when they started to see African American voters fleeing the party in the 1950s and 1960s, said Geraldo Cadava, a historian at Northwestern University who wrote a book on Hispanic Republicans.

President Richard Nixon set the tone with politics of patronage and high-level appointments of Latinos, Cadava said. So this year is similar.

"It's kind of right in line with elections in the past. Ever since Richard Nixon's reelection campaign in 1972, Republicans have won somewhere between a quarter and a third of the Latino vote," said Cadava, author of The Hispanic Republican: The Shaping of an American Political Identity, From Nixon to Trump.

"I would point first to the development over a long period of time of a partisan loyalty to the Republican Party. And Latino Republican voters just identify as Republicans above all else, just like many Americans. There is a kind of tribalism among Latino Republicans, just like there is among many Americans."

While some might expect that support to wane in communities who've been most severely affected by COVID-19 — losing more jobs and more lives than other demographic groups — Cadava said the Trump campaign's messaging has been successful on low unemployment for Latinos pre-pandemic, "law and order" (many Latinos serve in the military, police force and in the Border Patrol) and other issues important to Latino conservatives.

"It's been kind of amazing to watch, I mean, in some ways the Latinos for Trump campaign, which started officially in the spring of 2019, has been relentless in recruiting Latino voters," Cadava said. "They're actually trying to increase Trump's Latino support, not just kind of hold it steady or depress the turnout of Democrats. They're trying to win more Latino votes."

In Orange County, Calif., Randall Avila is counting on Latino voters to turn the county red again by flipping back four congressional seats the party lost in 2018 and holding on to the county seat.

Avila is ethnically Mexican, 30, and the executive director of the Orange County Republican Party.

"I've been called every name in the book, from coconut to many other things," he said.

But that derisive rhetoric doesn't faze him, he said. This party is where he feels at home.

"Our families and our communities, you know, really took care of each other and took care of ourselves. We weren't really focused on what is the government going to do for us," he said. "The independent spirit of our community really drove me to the Republican ideal of making sure that you're able to provide for yourself and your family, that you have that independence and that liberty to be able to start your own business or work where you wanted to, or go to school where you wanted to go and have those opportunities available."

His Christian faith also aligned him with the Republican Party on issues such as abortion. And while he said he probably wouldn't phrase things the way Trump does sometimes, Latino voters such as him are attracted to the message of lower taxes and lower costs of living, especially in California.

"I've never seen the Republican Party fight this hard to get Latino and African American votes," he said. "We have a number of Latino candidates, a number of Latino Republicans who are really stepping up and taking center stage. I'm hoping that that can be a better conduit to connecting with Latinos across the country and showing them that the Republican Party, there is a place for you here. This is your home as a voter."

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Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.