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Border Chaos Inflames GOP,Latino Split 06/23 11:16

   (AP) -- When more than 1,000 Latino officials -- a crop of up-and-coming 
representatives from a fast-growing demographic -- gathered in Phoenix last 
week, no one from the Trump administration was there to greet them.

   It marked the first time a presidential administration skipped the annual 
conference of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials in at least 
24 years. But the absence was striking for another reason. As jarring images of 
severed Central American migrant families played out on television, the White 
House chose not to make the case for its immigration policy to these key 

   For some, the choice was more evidence that the relationship between Latinos 
in the U.S. and the GOP is not just fractured, but broken --- a breach with 
both immediate and long-term consequences.

   GOP strategists are bracing for the potential fallout the turmoil at the 
border might have on November's midterm elections, where control of the House 
__ and possibly the Senate __ is in play. Some Republicans are warning that 
President Donald Trump's racially charged appeals to white voters, on display 
again at a recent rally he held in Minnesota, will doom the party's 
relationship with minorities.

   "There is a great amount of anxiety about what is happening throughout the 
country facing the Latino community, and it's not just immigration," said 
Arturo Vargas, the group's executive director. "Absence of the nation's 
leadership at such a meeting is a real problem."

   Peter Guzman, a Republican who is the president of the Latin Chamber of 
Commerce in Nevada, said the president is hurting the GOP's outreach to Latinos 
in his state, which Trump lost in 2016 and where control of the Senate may 
hinge this fall. He said Trump damaged the GOP's standing among Latinos by 
first showing ambivalence to the plight on the border and then stoking ethnic 

   "When you call them rapists and say they're all criminals, it's bad," he 
said. "When he looks into the camera and marginalizes all Hispanics, it's not 
good for the party."

   Others say the administration's approach to the crisis at the border adds to 
the perception that the nation's top-ranking Republican cares little about 
Latinos' plight.

   "Latinos don't just feel misunderstanding and meanness from Republicans. 
It's abject cruelty," said former Republican strategist Steve Schmidt, who was 
the senior adviser to 2008 GOP presidential nominee John McCain. "For the 
Hispanic community, the Republican brand is gone forever. Kaput. They will 
never consider voting for a Republican."

   Schmidt ended his 30-year relationship with the GOP in the past week, 
blasting the "complete and total corruption of the Republican Party among its 
elected officials." His outrage reflects frustration among some Republicans, 
particularly those aligned with George W. Bush, about the party's long-term 
ability to harness the growing segment of Latino voters. Bush was re-elected in 
2004 with the support of 44 percent of Latinos.

   The Trump administration's decision to skip the Latino conference showed how 
far the GOP has shifted from Bush's "compassionate" conservatism.

   "There is a great amount of anxiety about what is happening throughout the 
country facing the Latino community, and it's not just immigration," said 
Arturo Vargas, the Latino group's executive director. "Absence of the nation's 
leadership at such a meeting is a real problem."

   Census data released recently showed non-Hispanic whites were the only 
demographic group whose population decreased from July 1, 2016, to the same 
date in 2017, declining .02 percent to 197.8 million. The Hispanic population, 
meanwhile, increased 2.1 percent to 58.9 million during that time period.

   Even as American demographics shift, there are few incentives for Republican 
incumbents to abandon Trump __ or his hard-line approach on many cultural 
issues. Those who have criticized the president, such as GOP Rep. Mark Sanford 
of South Carolina, were ousted by primary voters seeking loyalty to Trump. 
Other Trump critics in Congress, including Republican Sens. Bob Corker of 
Tennessee and Jeff Flake of Arizona, have decided not to seek re-election 
rather than face Trump's most fervent supporters during a primary race.

   And those enthusiastic Trump supporters remain by his side as they have 
through most of his controversial presidency.

   "I've got absolute confidence in how this man handles anything," 68-year-old 
Pat Shaler of North Scottsdale, Arizona, said in an interview.

   For his part, the president --- and some Republicans --- see the immigration 
hard line as a winning play. Just hours after reversing himself and ending the 
family separations, Trump promoted hawkish immigration measures at the rally in 
northern Minnesota. Reminiscent of the 2016 campaign, Trump smiled upon a 
throng of 8,000 chanting, "Build the wall! Build the wall!"

   The concentration of the non-white voters in cities has allowed Republicans 
to maximize their strength among white voters by shaping congressional district 
maps to help them hold majorities in 32 statehouses and the U.S. House. Exit 
polls in 2016 showed Trump garnered more than 6 out of 10 white votes and 
two-thirds of whites without college degrees.

   "Trump exacerbated the cultural re-alignment of this country to a degree 
that we didn't think possible," said Tim Miller, an aide to 2016 GOP 
presidential candidate Jeb Bush, who promoted a path to citizenship for people 
in the country illegally.

   James Aldrete, a Democratic consultant in Texas, says "there is no joy" in 
watching Trump carry out family separations, which he called "a stupid failed 
tactic." But Aldrete said it can only exacerbate Republicans' problems among 

   "Does it hit us in the gut? Hell yes," Aldrete said.

   Colorado, a perennial political battleground, demonstrates the challenge for 
the GOP. Republicans competing to win the gubernatorial nomination in Tuesday's 
primary have united in attacking so-called sanctuary cities. As the border 
turmoil unfolded, the front-runner in the race, Walker Stapelton, aired a 
television ad declaring, "I stand with Trump" on immigration.

   While such tactics may appeal to the GOP base in a primary, some Republicans 
said the moves are unhelpful in a state where the Hispanic population has grown 
almost 40 percent since 2000. Former Colorado Republican Party Chairman Dick 
Wadhams said candidates should be addressing the economy and education __ 
issues that attract wide swaths of voters.

   Messages such as Stapelton's, Wadhams said, "make things very complicated 
for Republicans in Colorado."


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