DENVER (AP) — The Republican party is launching a new wave of outreach to Latinos to mark Tuesday's onset of Hispanic Heritage Month, as the front-runner in the party's presidential race continues to alarm party insiders who fear he could alienate the fast-growing ethnic group with his criticisms of people living in the U.S. illegally.
The Republican National Committee is touting 25 different events in eight states, including battleground destinations like Florida, North Carolina and Virginia. Hispanic Heritage Month runs from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15.
The push is part of an effort announced by the party after its 2012 drubbing to reach out to minorities — especially Latinos, who had increasingly turned away from the GOP. "It puts us in a very good place to build on the successes we've had before," said RNC deputy political director Jennifer Sevilla Korn.
The events are intended to have something of a local theme. In the Orlando area, the party intends to focus on Puerto Rico's financial crisis and statehood questions, partly because of the large number of Puerto Ricans who have settled in the area. In south Florida, conversations will center on normalizing relations with Cuba, while efforts in Pennsylvania will focus on taxes and the economy.
Kern said Trump's statements and his deteriorating standing among Latinos — an NBC/Marist poll on Monday found only 22 percent would vote for Trump against Hillary Clinton — have "not impeded our ability to go out and have conversations with the community about the issues."
At his June campaign kickoff, Trump contended that people from Mexico who are in the U.S. illegally are largely "criminals and rapists." He has drawn repeated condemnation from Hispanic groups for his rhetoric. Some of his GOP rivals have also scolded him for his approach, most notably former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who released a Spanish-language video Monday celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month.
Democrats, meanwhile, have tried to link other Republican presidential hopefuls to Trump's proposal to expel all 11 million people who are in the U.S. illegally.