President Donald Trump did his best to appeal to Latinx voters during his rally on Monday evening in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. His “best,” however, was profoundly bizarre.
In one especially odd moment, Trump remarked upon how white one of his key Latino surrogates looks.
“He happens to be Hispanic, but I’ve never quite figured it out because he looks more like a WASP than I do. So I haven’t figured that one out. But I’ll tell you what — there is nobody that loves this country more or Hispanic more than Steve Cortes,” Trump said. (Cortes is a pro-Trump television commentator and member of Trump’s Hispanic Advisory Council.)
“Nobody loves the Hispanics more!” Trump continued, before asking Cortes a question that suggested Latinos have dual loyalties: “Who do you like more, the country or the Hispanics? He says the country. I don’t know, I may have to go for the Hispanics to be honest with you. We got a lot of Hispanics! We love our Hispanics.”
Trump’s words are at odds with reality. Polling indicates American Latinos feel more insecure than they did before 2016, in part because of the sort of hardline anti-immigration rhetoric that he didn’t shy away from using Monday night. And since Latino households are more likely to experience poverty and food insecurity than others, the budget cuts Trump has annually proposed puts them in an especially precarious position.
It makes sense that Trump would put effort into Latino outreach in New Mexico, which has the highest percentage of Latinos of any state of the country. But remarking on the tone of an ally’s skin and suggesting Latino voters have dual loyalties are probably not the best ways to do it. Trump’s comments unsurprisingly seemed to play well to his supporters in the room, but they are unlikely to win many new ones in a state where he can use all the supporters he can get.