President Trump sought to align Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden with the more progressive wing of the Democratic Party on Monday evening – arguing that a Biden White House would steer the United States toward socialism as he made his pitch to Latino voters in the battleground state of Arizona.
Noting that many Hispanic-Americans emigrated to the U.S from countries ruled by socialist or communist leaders – specifically mentioning Venezuela and Cuba – Trump argued that the far-left wing of the Democratic Party would use Biden to enact their policy proposals if he is elected this November.
“Many Hispanic-Americans came here to pursue the American dream,” Trump said during a roundtable event in Phoenix before claiming that the Democrats “are asking for an American nightmare of whatever you want to call it.”
“We’re not going to be another Venezuela,” Trump added. “We’re not going to let that happen to our country.”
Home to the world’s largest oil reserves, Venezuela was for decades an economic leader in the western hemisphere and, despite a massive gap between rich and poor, was a major destination for neighboring Colombians and other Latin Americans fleeing their less prosperous and more troubled homelands.
But in recent years, the country has been gripped by widespread malnutrition, disease and violence, and critics accuse strongman leader Nicolás Maduro of unfairly winning an election in 2018 for a second six-year term by banning his popular rivals from running and jailing others.
Trump’s comments come amid a sweep of western states over the last two days, where he has attempted to appeal to Latino voters in the run-up to the November 3 election. While Monday’s roundtable was billed as a “Latinos for Trump” event – and felt more like a campaign rally with a raucous and vocal crowd in attendance – the president faces an uphill battle when it comes to winning over Hispanic voters.
Latinos historically vote Democrat – with the Pew Research Center noting that 69 percent of Hispanic voters cast a ballot for Democrats in the 2018 midterm election compared to just 29 percent for Republicans – and Trump’s hardline rhetoric on immigration has isolated him from many first- and second-generation Latino voters.
This year, a record 32 million Latinos across the country will be eligible to vote, making them the largest minority electorate for the 2020 election, and, in Arizona, which is poised to be a close race between Trump and Biden, Latinos are projected to make up one-fourth of the vote, according to Pew.
During his roundtable on Monday, Trump stayed away from discussing immigration and instead focused on his administration’s economic achievements, while touting his “unwavering devotion to the Hispanic-American community.”
The president’s talk about the economy is part of a shift in his campaign to move away from his “law and order” message and toward making the economy the “defining issue” in the late stages of the presidential election season.
A campaign official on Monday touted to Fox News the president’s efforts in terms of job creation, saying that the Trump administration has seen 10.6 million jobs created in the last four months -- which followed historic job losses amid the coronavirus pandemic -- while billing it as “the single greatest period of job creation in the history of this country.”
“When you look at just August, which was 1.4 million jobs, that is 2.5 times the number of jobs created in the entirety of the eight years that Joe Biden was vice president,” the official said. “And so people want to vote for a president who will reopen the economy and knows what he’s doing.”
Trump’s push to win over Latino voters also comes amid reports that there's mounting anxiety among Democrats that the Biden campaign's standing among Latinos is slipping.
Concerns about Biden's strength were driven in part by an NBC-Marist poll released last week, which found Latinos in Florida – another key state with a large Hispanic population - are about evenly divided between Biden and Trump. Hillary Clinton led Trump by a 59% to 36% margin among Latinos in the same poll in 2016
Hispanic voters in Florida tend to be somewhat more Republican-leaning than Hispanic voters nationwide because of the state’s sizeable Cuban-American population. Nationally, little public polling is available to measure the opinions of Latino voters this year and whether they differ from four years ago.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, who led among Latinos during the early stages of the Democratic primary, warned on Sunday that Biden should be "reaching out more aggressively to grassroots Latino voters.”
Some on Biden's team privately acknowledged he may not win over Latinos by the same margins as Clinton, although they are not conceding defeat. Senior strategist Cristobal Alex said the campaign has been pounding airwaves with Spanish-language advertising for months in addition to launching “Latino leadership councils” across the country.
The former vice president leads Trump by 7.4 percentage points, according to an average of the latest national polling compiled by Real Clear Politics. That’s down from 7.7 points a month ago and 8.8 points two months ago. The new average includes a new Fox News national poll released Sunday that showed Biden topping the president 51%-46% among likely voters.
The Real Clear Politics average of national polling on this date four years ago showed 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton ahead of Trump by 2.3 points. Clinton led Trump by 3.2 points on the eve of the general election – and ended up winning the national popular vote by 2%.
Fox News’ Brooke Singman and The Associated Press contributed to this report.