Cleveland – Latino Republicans say they are frustrated by the lack of Hispanic representation at this year’s Republican National Convention, and a new poll by Latino Coalition shows that nearly 60 percent of conservative Latino voters have a negative view of GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.
“We’d like to see more Hispanic delegates, more Hispanic surrogates, more Hispanic people on the team and hopefully some of that will happen in the months to come, but usually, by this time, the team is pretty much set,” Hector Barreto, president of the non-partisan advocacy organization Latino Coalition, told Fox News Latino.
In 2012, the Republican convention hosted in Tampa positioned key Hispanic politicians in prime time speaking slots with a focus on their immigrant backgrounds and their pursuit of the American Dream. Gov. Susana Martinez of New Mexico made her national debut. Nevada’s Gov. Brian Sandoval and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas spoke – as did Puerto Rico’s then-Gov. Luis Fortuño and his wife.
Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida was given the prestigious role of introducing GOP nominee Mitt Romney on the convention’s final night.
This year there are three Latino speakers, according to FNL's unofficial count: Rubio, Cruz and Kentucky state Sen. Ralph Alvarado Jr.
But it isn't just a lack of Hispanic speakers on the stage, but also of Latino delegates and voters walking the corridors of Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.
“There is an absence of Latinos here,” said Gonzalo J. Ferrer, chairman of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly. “I feel abandoned by the party. Totally ditched.”
Ferrer, who traveled from California to Cleveland for his first convention, says he “hates" the idea of four more years of a Democratic White House and Hillary Clinton, but he says Republicans are doing it to themselves by not understanding the true value of Hispanic voters. He fears the GOP is on its way to having Texas turn blue after this election.
“I don’t understand how they are going to win 2016 and 2020 because of the lack of Latino presence,” Ferrer said emphatically.
“In 2000, the first event at the convention was a Hispanic event, and every convention since then has focused on them,” Barreto said. “It’s been a very different campaign. It’s been successful for Donald Trump so far. And now you’re going to the finish. And you’ve got to add more voters. Not just your base.”
For about six months, the Latino Coalition, one of the nation’s leading Hispanic advocacy groups, has attempted to meet with Trump – without success.
Barreto, the group’s president, says he remains undecided about the GOP nominee and points out that new polling done by the organization shows that Trump does not even garner enough support from conservative Latinos.
The Rising Latino Electorate poll of 1,000 Republican and independent Hispanic voters shows that, among Republican Latino voters, just 43 percent had a positive or very positive impression of Trump. Among independents, just 23 percent viewed Trump positively.
“I was [shocked],” Barreto said of the results. “A lot of these folks are foreign-born U.S. citizens. In other words, they came from a different country. They became a U.S. citizen. They became a Republican, and they consider themselves very conservative. Those are natural voters for the Republican Party. “
The poll underscores the sense among some in the party who believe that Trump campaign’s message has not only alienated Latino voters who consider themselves Democrats, but also threatens to alienate Hispanics the GOP had already won over.
Barreto noted that Trump still has three months left to reach out to moderate and conservative Hispanics who are open to voting for him. One good sign, he said, is that according to the poll, 40 percent of the Latino voters who reported having “very negative” to “neutral” impressions of Trump are nevertheless considering voting for him or are undecided.
Another telling finding is that 90 percent of moderate Latinos ranked “treating the Latino community with respect” as a very important characteristic for a candidate.
“They feel that any candidate who wants their vote also needs to respect them,” Barreto said.
Trump’s controversial immigration rhetoric is well documented and his comments questioning the ability of U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel to fairly oversee a case alleging fraud at the candidate's defunct Trump University because of his Mexican heritage have not sat well with many Latinos.
Even so, Barreto believes Trump can win over a lot of Latinos if he begins Tuesday night by outlining specifically how he will help small business owners – especially since 4 million Latino small business owners are the fastest growing part of the small business sector in America.
“It’s time now to get serious,” Barreto said about Trump’s efforts with Latino voters. “It’s time now to close the deal.”