President Donald Trump returned to New Mexico on Monday for a lengthy, wide-ranging campaign rally, courting Hispanic voters in a state he lost in 2016.
“Yesterday marked the beginning of Hispanic heritage month. Who is Hispanic?” he said to loud applause, pausing for a few moments.
As he has at many rallies, Trump touted Hispanic American employment and poverty numbers.
“We got a lot of Hispanics, got a lot of Hispanics. We love our Hispanics,” Trump later said.
He also spent time during the rally railing at The New York Times, handicapping his 2020 Democratic rivals, touting the US car industry – even as the United Auto Workers are on strike – lamenting the emoluments clause of the COnsitution and threatening that Democrats want to “demolish everything” that Republicans have gained.
Monday night’s crowd was diverse, with many supporters holding “Latinos for Trump” signs distributed by the campaign, which encouraged attendees to text “VAMOS” to a designated number.
“Viva Trump,” a pastor said after delivering the invocation earlier Monday, prompting raucous applause from the crowd.
Trump may face an uphill battle in courting the Hispanic vote, however – last week’s CNN/SSRS poll showed only 29% of Hispanics approve of the job he’s doing as President, compared with two-thirds who disapprove. From his initial campaign speech in the summer of 2015, in which he railed against Hispanic undocumented migrants coming into the US and promised to build a wall to keep them out, the President has often made reducing illegal crossings over the nation’s southern border a key focus.
Trump has made many policy decisions during his time in office that targeted those undocumented people who cross over the southern border, who are overwhelmingly from Central and South American. Among them have been the separation of children from their parents after an illegal border crossing – which has since been discontinued – and restricting the ability of individuals who make it to claim asylum. Human rights groups have also slammed the conditions that undocumented migrants face in detention centers after they are arrested for crossing the border illegally.
It was Trump’s first trip to the “Land of Enchantment” as President, and a sign of his campaign’s promise to make a play for the state that voted decisively Democratic in 2016.
The President kicked off a three-day swing out West rallying supporters in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, a suburb of Albuquerque, Monday evening. He will spend the night in the Albuquerque area, then travel to California for a slate of fundraising events Tuesday in Palo Alto and Beverly Hills. Trump will attend additional fundraisers in Los Angeles and San Diego on Wednesday before returning to Washington.
Hillary Clinton solidly won New Mexico’s five electoral votes in 2016; she carried 48.3% of the state’s votes to Trump’s 40.0%. However, the state’s independent voters cast their ballots for Trump 42% to 37% Clinton. The Trump campaign claims it sees signs that the state could be in play in 2020.
“I think New Mexico is a state that Trump’s policies are really working with,” Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale told reporters on a conference call last week.
Parscale said that Trump’s policies on China trade and immigration in particular are resonating with Latino voters, which make up a significant portion of New Mexico’s voters.
The President suggested Monday that border security was appealing to Hispanic voters.
When he first started talking about building a border wall, Trump said, people suggested it wouldn’t be popular with Hispanic voters.
“People said, oh, the Hispanics,” he said.
But, Trump continued, Hispanic voters understand the crisis and drugs pouring across the border.
“You understand that when other people don’t understand it,” he told the crowd.
“We saw thousands of voters who did not vote for the President in 2016 show up to a rally, register, come in line,” Parscale said, adding, “We saw thousands of Latina women and Latinos come there that had not voted for him in ’16 who were not only anxious to vote for him this time, but actually come see him and rally for him. As we then started doing poling there, we started seeing a dramatic increase from our last polling from 2016.”
Parscale said he showed these results to Trump “and he was in agreement with me. ‘Let’s go right into Albuquerque, let’s go into New Mexico.’ ”
Trump’s campaign manager said they had gotten “one of the best responses” for campaign rally registration as of last week.
Trump vowed Monday he would be victorious in New Mexico in 2020.
“We will campaign for every vote and we will win the great state of New Mexico,” he said.
He later acknowledged, “It’s been quite a while since a Republican won this state. … We really think we’re going to turn this state and make it a Republican state.”
The campaign and Republican National Committee have installed a state director, Leslie White, in New Mexico, and announced Monday that state’s House Minority Leader Jim Townsend and former state Rep. Sharon Clahchischilliage will be honorary state chairs.
According to voter registration statistics from the New Mexico Secretary of State, 33% of voters in Sandoval County, where the rally is being held, are registered Republicans as of August 2019. Forty-three percent are registered Democrats.
Trump’s last trip to New Mexico was met with resistance: protesters lit fires, smashed a door and threw rocks outside his Albuquerque rally in May 2016, the scene of chaos taking place in the weeks after he became the presumptive Republican nominee. Inside the convention center, sporadic protesters disrupted Trump’s rally.
On Monday, Trump was interrupted just once by a protester.