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Will Latinos Vote GOP This Time Around?

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Some say the result of tonight’s Republican caucus is a foregone conclusion.

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That Donald Trump, riding the wave of support from his win in South Carolina, will win.

But in Nevada, a win for any candidate depends deeply upon the support of the state’s growing block of Latino voters.

The Arizona Republic recently looked deep into the psyche of Latinos in Las Vegas and found that, while immigration is a crucial issue, they don’t all look at it the same way.

Michael Squires,  political editor at the Arizona Republic, talked with KNPR's State of Nevada about the growing numbers of Latinos and whether any GOP candidate has a chance of picking up their votes.

Squires pointed to the debate between the Bernie Sanders camp and Hillary Clinton's camp about who won the Latino vote from Saturday's Democratic caucus as an example of how important the vote is in this race. 

Squires said following Mitt Romney's loss in 2012 the Republican Party really looked at why their candidate lost and decided to take immigration off the table in order to win the presidency.

However, he points to rhetoric by both Donald Trump and Ted Cruz as a change in that plan that might hurt the party in the end. 

"They've used the issue to appeal to the base and say, 'No, we're going to build a fence at the expense of Mexico.'" Squires said, "It's kind of brought this issue right up in the middle where the party kind of decided it needed to take it off the table to win but it's right back on the table"

For the reporting project by the Arizona Republic, reporters from the newspaper went to several early voting states, including Nevada, to find out how the immigration issue is playing in these important states. 

"In state after state, you find among Latino voters very turned off by the rhetoric that you hear coming from Donald Trump," Squires said.

Squires pointed out that beyond the immigration issue the Republican Party has a lot to offer the Latino community. He noted that many Latinos tend to be socially conservative and small business owners, compared with the general population. 

"Some of the small government message, the less regulation message that the Republicans tend to put out there,  could appeal to them." he said, "But it seems what you expected going into this race where Republicans would try to move past immigration has really not turned out."

But Squire said many Latino voters are very tied to the immigration issue, because they are immigrants themselves or someone close to them is undocumented. 

"Just seeing the issue used to sort of stoke the base to get people's passions aroused and out voting is really distasteful to many of them," he said.

Unlike Arizona, which seems to be favoring more Draconian measures for immigrations and immigrants, Squires said Nevada seems to be moving in the other direction. 

"I think you see a Republican Party [in Nevada] that looks more like the direction the Republican Party wanted to go in," he said, "They're willing to appeal or attempt to appeal to Latino voters."

In the end, Squires believes what will make the difference is whether Latino voters feel motivated enough by the rhetoric they don't like to go to the polls in November. 

 

Michael Squires, political editor, Arizona Republic

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Joe Schoenmann joined Nevada Public Radio in 2014. He works with a talented team of producers at State of Nevada who explore the casino industry, sports, politics, public health and everything in between.