For Cuban-American Denise Galvez, 41, her public support for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump started off as a casual conversation about politics with her Latina friends in her native Miami.
“Listen, now that he’s our candidate, I’m kind of leaning toward Trump,” she told them this past summer.
She said that she had previously remained silent about her support for the candidate because she was afraid of being ridiculed, but after seeing how vocal women were about Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, she decided to speak up.
“That’s crazy—” she said with respect to her initial hesitation to endorse Trump, “this is the United States of America. We have our first amendment right to say out loud who the heck we’re supporting and why!”
One by one, Galvez said, her friends admitted they also supported Republican presidential nominee. Shortly after, she co-founded the group Latinas for Trump.
With Hispanics making up about 12 percent of the voters in the United States, 2016 is likely to be the largest ever Latino electorate in American history. Nationwide, Latinos are majority Democrats, polling at around two-thirds. But, in Miami-Dade County, the mostly Cuban-Americans population favors Republicans, with, 41 percent supporting Trump, 29 percent for Clinton, and 30 percent undecided, according to a Miami Herald poll.
Last month, Galvez attended the 68th annual Lincoln Day fundraiser dinner hosted by the Republican Party of Miami-Dade County. Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, however, was absent from the event.
A campaign source said the senator would not be attending any presidential campaign events in order to focus on his re-election campaign. This statement came after the release of a 2005 audio recording of Trump making lewd remarks about women.
Although several Republicans withdrew their support for the candidate after the tape was released, Rubio declared he still endorses Trump in a statement released on October 10.
“I wish we had better choices for president,” Rubio said in the statement. “But I do not want Hillary Clinton to be our next president. And therefore my position has not changed.”
Rubio is seeking re-election this month.
Republican Carlos Trujillo, incumbent for the 105th district of the Florida House of Representatives did attend the Lincoln Day dinner and said he still backs Trump despite his past vulgar language toward women.
“Do I wish he hadn’t said that? Of course,” Trujillo said after the Lincoln Day dinner. “But he’s the nominee.”
“To me, [Trump] is the messenger,” Galvez said, “and he’s unfortunately what we ended up with, for better or for worse, but I’m sticking behind him.”
This past September, the Pew Research Center asked registered Latino voters who they would choose if the 2016 presidential election were being held that day. Results found that 58 percent chose Clinton, 19 percent Trump, leaving 23 percent for a third-party candidate.
The majority of Latino voters turned against Trump before the notorious tape release because of his offensive remarks about Mexicans and his vow to build a wall on the US-Mexican border.
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,” Trump said early in his presidential campaign. “They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”
Nonetheless, Trump still has a share of Latino supporters, like Galvez and other Cuban-Americans. Galvez stated, in response to Trump’s comment toward Mexicans, he did mention “some, I assume, are good people.”
Galvez added that she does not believe that Trump’s comments have affected the way that U.S. citizens view Mexican-Americans.
Ari Fleischer, former White House press secretary for former President George W. Bush, disagrees.
“I think [Trump] has successfully whittled himself down to the hardcore Republican Hispanic community,” said Fleischer said in a telephone interview. “The things he’s done, the things he’s said have offended and alienated a sizeable group of Hispanic-Americans who can vote.”
Immigration attorney Jacob Monty, a Republican from Houston, admitted that Trump wasn’t his first choice for Republican presidential nominee but he said he supported Trump because of the candidate’s ability to bring immigration reform to the forefront of political discourse. Monty was part of the National Hispanic Advisory Council (NHAC) that met with Trump at the end of August in hopes of softening his stance on immigration.
Shortly after the meeting, Monty said that Trump seemed receptive to the Council’s advice.
“He said, ‘I know you guys aren’t happy with mass deportations, I’m not either. We have to find a better way for the non-criminals,’” recalled Monty. “We started a dialogue.”
A few days later, Trump delivered a speech in Phoenix, Arizona harking back to his anti-immigrant sentiment, causing Monty to resign from the NHAC.
“I don’t understand these Republicans who are now backing out,” said Galvez in response to Republicans who have pulled their support for Trump. “That’s more upsetting to me than people who just flat out support Hillary—I’m fine with that.”
There are still Trump supporters within the Republican Latino community despite his disdainful comments about Latinos, but the Latino community as a whole does not seem to back the candidate.
“It has nothing to do with Latino or immigrant,” said Galvez, “it’s about being American.”