It was just over a year ago, at a nationally televised debate, when Donald Trump chided Jeb Bush for speaking another language on the campaign trail. This is a country, Trump said standing at the lectern next to Bush, where we speak English, not Spanish.

The crowd at the Ronald Reagan presidential library applauded. Ever since, Trump has stayed true to his word.

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With 46 days until the November elections, and as early voting begins in a handful of states, Trump is on the precipice of becoming the only major-party presidential candidate this century not to reach out to millions of American voters whose dominant, first or just preferred language is Spanish. Trump has not only failed to buy any Spanish-language television or radio ads, he so far has avoided even offering a translation of his website into Spanish, breaking with two decades of bipartisan tradition.

Hes not willing to give into anything that shows that he wants to cater to us, said Juan Hernandez, a Hispanic Republican and former adviser to President George W. Bush. And he believes that he doesnt have to. He believes he can still squeeze out a few more white, over 50 [year-old] votes.

While the majority of Latino voters are English-speaking, Trumps refusal to campaign in Spanish is a powerful symbol of how little heed Trump has paid to Americas shifting demographics. Latinos now make up about 10 percent of the national vote, with electorally potent concentrations in crucial battlegrounds such as Florida, Colorado, Nevada and even North Carolina.



Adolfo Franco, a veteran Republican strategist who served as a top Hispanic surrogate for Mitt Romney and John McCain, said he had a more cynical view of Trumps studied avoidance of campaigning in Spanish.

I think theyve made a calculation that going on Spanish TV in a more concentrated fashion and also placing ads in Spanish would upset his base, Franco said.

Trumps bid for the White House has been powered by working-class white voters and summed up by his slogan Make America Great Again that appeals to a bygone era of prosperity whose disappearance is blamed on immigration and globalization. Trump called illegal Mexican immigrants rapists and drug-dealers in his announcement speech, and chants of Build that wall! are among the loudest at his rallies.

That has left a growing number of prominent Latino Republicans on the sidelines in 2016, backing Hillary Clinton or even Libertarian Gary Johnson, whom Hernandez has endorsed. Multiple members of Trumps National Hispanic Advisory Council resigned after his heated anti-immigrant rhetoric following his trip to Mexico. And one of the co-chairs of Romneys Hispanic outreach operation, former Bush Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, has starred in a Spanish-language ad this cycle for Clinton.

Votar por Trump? No puedo, Gutierrez says. (Translation: Vote for Trump? I cant.)

Romney, McCain and Bush all operated Spanish-language versions of their websites. Romney dispatched his Spanish-speaking son, Craig, as an ambassador in TV ads and on the trail (Somos una nacin de inmigrantes, the younger Romney said in one ad). McCain and Bush, who both hailed from border states, ran Spanish-languages ads. Bush himself narrated some, memorably beginning them, Soy George W. Bush with his distinctive Texas accent.

Four years ago, a total of $23 million was spent on Spanish-language ads in the 2012 presidential race by Obama, Romney and their backers; so far in 2016, Trump has spent zero. Trumps campaign declined to comment for this story.



The Trump campaigns most notable dabbling in Spanish consisted of a single word and it was misused. At the Republican convention in Cleveland, officials handed out signs that read Hispanics Para Trump, which both didnt translate Hispanics and used the incorrect Spanish word for for (para instead of por).

In recent weeks, Clinton has begun airing hundreds of thousands of dollars in Spanish-language ads in Nevada and Florida. A trio of supportive super PACs, meanwhile, have announced a $3 million Spanish-language buy, so far in those same two states, as well as Colorado. In addition, Clintons running mate, Tim Kaine, spoke in Spanish at both his vice-presidential announcement and convention speeches. Her website prominently features a half-dozen buttons atop the homepage; one of them En espaol is the portal to her Spanish-language site.

We have some voters that really want to communicate in Spanish, said Lorella Praeli, the Clinton campaigns Latino outreach director, describing a three-pronged approach to wooing Hispanic voters in English, Spanish and a blend of both languages

Of Trumps approach to Latinos, Praeli said, He has insulted us and he has tried to demonize our community from the beginning.

In a sign of Trumps toxicity among Hispanic voters, hes already being attacked in Spanish by a fellow Republican. Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois unveiled an ad last week touting that, Yo no apoyo a Trump, which translates as I dont support Trump.

Behind the scenes, Trumps campaign has done some quiet outreach to Latino Republicans and been repeatedly rebuffed. Several top Hispanic Republicans, including Hernandez and Franco, told POLITICO they were recruited to join Trump Tower as surrogates or advisers. They refused.

Franco said he turned them down because of Trumps gross generalizations, xenophobia and a number of comments that have absolutely crossed the line.

I didnt even answer, Hernandez scoffed.



Trumps Hispanic outreach has been run mostly by Helen Aguirre Ferr of the Republican National Committee, who is respected by her peers, many of whom were surprised to see her take the job. She replaced Ruth Guerra, who reportedly resigned over objections to working on behalf of Trump. (Unlike Trump, the RNC has produced some materials in Spanish.)

But few other prominent Hispanic Republicans have come on board. That has hurt the Trump campaigns presence on Spanish-language television programs, where the surrogate program has been weak, said Alfonso Aguilar, who mobilized Hispanic supporters for Trump in July before rescinding his endorsement in protest over Trumps immigration speech after his Mexico visit.

Aguilar said he told the campaign, Youre leaving a vacuum for the opposition to define the narrative in Spanish-language media and thats exactly whats happening. When he was a surrogate, Aguilar said, there were no talking points or fact sheets, as there had been in the Romney, McCain and Bush campaigns.

You can run a campaign thats different, Aguilar said. But you still need a professional operation.

Lionel Sosa, who cut ads targeting Hispanic voters for Ronald Reagan, including in Spanish, said he was among those contacted by Trumps team this year. He said he told them he would only help the campaign if Trump apologized for his past offensive remarks. I just cant stomach Donald Trump, Sosa said. Instead, hes backing Johnson.

Sosa predicted Trump would win no more than 22 percent of the Latino vote worse than Romneys much-maligned 27 percent and far short of Bushs high-water mark of 44 percent in 2004. (A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released on Thursday put Trump at 17 percent among likely Hispanic voters.)

The path to the White House via an overwhelmingly white coalition is a narrow one. Romney won the highest share of the white vote in three decades, 59 percent, and still lost in 2012. And whites are expected to comprise a smaller share of the electorate in 2016 than 2012, due to the faster demographic growth among minorities nationwide.

Trumps team recognizes the difficult math they face, given their candidates rhetoric and narrow coalition. Its one of the reasons the Republican nominee has begun publicly appealing to black voters, appearing at African-American churches and talking about the plight of black America at many of his rallies.

The Latino community has been mentioned far less often by Trump. In a way, hes being smart, said Alex Nogales, president of the National Hispanic Media Coalition and a Trump critic. Why waste his money on a community thats not going to vote for him?

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story said Aguilar had joined Trumps Hispanic advisory council. He had independently organized support of Latino Republicans for Trump.

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