Latino voters seem like a lost opportunity to Republicans

More than 500,000 Latinos in Texas have registered to vote since the last election in 2012. It's the awakening of a long-dormant voting bloc that for a while in this campaign had Democrats dreaming big.

Voting Democrat in Texas: 'The future of our country is at stake, especially for our kids'

Jonathan Bisso became a U.S. citizen in September after decades in America so he could vote and voice his opposition to Donald Trump. (Steven D'Souza/CBC)

When Jonathan Bisso heard Donald Trump insult immigrants for the first time, he wanted to act. But when he heard his eight-year old daughter say she wanted to vote for Hillary Clinton, he knew he had to do something.

"Seeing my daughter saying, 'I wish I could vote, because I would vote for Hillary' — that's what she said — and I was like, wow," said Bisso.

So, 21 years after moving to the U.S. from Peru, Bisso became an American citizen in September, and last week he voted Democrat, to show his displeasure with the Republican nominee.

"I have to vote, I have to say something about this," he said. "The future of our country is at stake, especially for our kids."

While it took him a little longer than most, he's one of more than 500,000 Latinos in Texas to register to vote since the last election in 2012. It's the awakening of a long-dormant voting bloc that, for a while in this campaign, had Democrats dreaming big.

At points in this campaign, Hillary Clinton trailed Donald Trump in the polls by single digits. That's unheard of in a state where Mitt Romney beat Barack Obama easily in 2012 by 16 percentage points. Democrats hoped the surge in polls fuelled by a demographic shift could turn the state blue for the first time since 1976.

Republican Jacob Monty started as a backer of Jeb Bush. Then he got on board with Donald Trump. Then Trump's policies ultimately drive him away. (Steven D'Souza/CBC)

For Republican activists like immigration lawyer Jacob Monty, the numbers represent a lost opportunity. He sees new Latino voters as natural Republicans blinded by the demagoguery and anti-immigration policies of Donald Trump.

"We're going to wake up after the election, and we're going to have that Trump hangover, having lost our third national election," he said.

(As of Friday morning, Eric Grenier's presidential poll tracker projected Donald Trump to win 52.4 per cent of the vote in Texas, against Hillary Clinton's 39.4 per cent. Nationally, Clinton led by 46.9 per cent to Trump's 45.1 per cent.)

'He's simply unfit'

Monty supported Jeb Bush, but when Donald Trump emerged as the nominee, he decided to get on board. He even flew to New York to be a part of Trump's "Hispanic Advisory Council."

He was impressed with Trump's ideas, but when the New York billionaire delivered a fiery immigration speech in Phoenix on Aug. 31 and talked about mass deportations, Monty, along with most of the rest of the council, resigned.

"We should have done extreme vetting on Donald Trump, because he's simply unfit," Monty said.

 He said if Republicans in Texas want to keep the state red, they'll have to get on the right side of the immigration issue.

"We do have to solve this immigration problem, because it continues to erode … our share of the Latino electorate."

Conservative blogger Brittany Pounders says it's not just the immigration issue that's divided Texas Republicans, but also Trump's comments about women.

Conservative blogger Brittany Pounders says Donald Trump's comments about women have splintered the party. (Steven D'Souza/CBC)

"I never knew that so many evangelicals, so many conservatives, so many Republicans are willing to sacrifice the crotches of America's daughters in order to win the presidency," she said, noting her anti-Trump stance on her site, has drawn constant threats.

She says the race for 2020 will begin on Nov. 9, and Republicans will need to choose a standard-bearer who better reflects the values of Texans. She's voting for third-party candidate Evan McMullin this year and says the GOP leadership has a lot of work to do to win voters like her back.

"This is a splintered wounded party," she said. "The leaders in our party who have hitched their wagons to (Trump), I'm not sure I can trust them again."

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Steven D'Souza

Senior Reporter

Steven D'Souza is a Senior Reporter based in Toronto. Previously he was CBC's correspondent in New York covering two U.S. Presidential campaigns and travelling around the U.S. covering everything from protests to natural disasters to mass shootings. He won a Canadian Screen Award for coverage of the protests around the death of George Floyd. He's reported internationally from Rome, Israel and Brazil.