The unexpected has happened in the last few days of the U.S. presidential race: Donald Trump appears slightly humbled. I’m not talking about him admitting he at times says things he later regrets, a statement that caused quite a stir. I am referring to issues directly tied to Mexico: immigration and the deportation of undocumented immigrants.
Strong but just. Firm and fair. That is how Trump described his policy on fixing the U.S. immigration system to the media, a system no one would disagree needs an overhaul.
The problem is that Trump’s campaign charged out of the starting gate by insulting Hispanic immigrants, calling them rapists and criminals who will be yanked out of the country if he wins the presidency. And, of course, to tighten security, time and time again he has stated he will build a border wall so high that no ladder could be used to help undocumented immigrants cross into the United States. A wall paid for by Mexico.
Now, seeing what his poll numbers and the dismal support from Hispanics mean for his chances of winning in November, Trump is toning down the rhetoric.
This is an obvious step considering the difference between extreme right-wing primary voters and the general electorate that will decide who reaches the 270 votes in the Electoral College and gets the keys to the White House.
In the most recent Fox News survey, among Latinos, Donald Trump is 46 points behind Hillary Clinton. It is not as overwhelming a number as the 99 percent of African-Americans who prefer Hillary over Trump, but it is a striking difference that, evidently, is worrying Trump’s new campaign leadership.
Nearly 27.3 million Latinos may cast their votes in November. It is a number never seen before and one that will continue to rise, as Latinos are the fastest-growing demographic group.
It is also important to see where Latinos make a difference, namely in states like Florida, Colorado, Nevada and Arizona. If we add up the electoral votes of these four states, where either Hillary or Trump could win, you can see why Trump has had to show more restraint with his position on undocumented immigrants and on immigration itself.
Florida is the crown jewel with 29 votes. Arizona has 11, Colorado, 9, and Nevada, 6. Together, they are 55 of the 270 votes needed, or 20 percent on the road to the White House.
This Thursday, Trump is scheduled to give a speech to clarify his stance on this issue. Some are saying it will be postponed. In any case, the role of immigrants is not turning out to be just simple rhetoric for Trump.
He now faces the dilemma of trying a moderate approach to win over allies – and earn votes – but risks losing support from all those who are in favor of the politically incorrect talk that won him the Republican Party nomination.