Republicans court Latino voters in Nevada
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Former President Donald Trump rails against what he calls an invasion at the southern border. At the same time, he's courting Latino voters. In the battleground state of Nevada, Latinos are 20% of the electorate. Democrats have long relied on those votes, but Republicans sense an opportunity. NPR's Franco Ordoñez reports from the Latino neighborhoods of East Las Vegas.
FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: Shuffling through some jeans on a clothing rack in her small store, Cristina Rosales (ph) says sales have improved since COVID but not to where they were before the pandemic. It's a major consideration for the 40-year-old native of Colombia, who plans to vote in the presidential election this November.
CRISTINA ROSALES: (Through interpreter) I like Trump. I support Trump. I like his way of leadership, of leading the country.
ORDOÑEZ: She understands it's not the most popular view here in East Las Vegas, where it's almost as common to hear Spanish as English. But as a mom and a small business owner, she says the economy is her top issue.
ROSALES: (Through interpreter) For example, you can speak to many of the store owners here, those who have been here two or three years, and they will say their numbers this year have dropped.
ORDOÑEZ: She's not alone in worrying about the economy.
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UNIDENTIFIED MUSICAL ARTIST: (Singing in Spanish).
ORDOÑEZ: Just around the corner at a bar in the same Latin market, Kiosen Hidalgo (ph) is having a beer after work and singing along to Spanish ballads.
KIOSEN HIDALGO: I think we need Trump back. We didn't have any problems. We didn't have job problems. You know what I'm saying? The economy was good.
ORDOÑEZ: While most Latinos in Nevada are Democrats, there has been a notable shift. Jesus Marquez, a local political consultant who has advised several state Republicans, says Trump's focus on working-class Americans resonates here.
JESUS MARQUEZ: And it happens that Latinos - we are part - big part of that working class.
ORDOÑEZ: He points to polling that shows the cost of living, the economy, jobs and health care being the most important issues to the community.
MARQUEZ: In fact, immigration falls down into, like, the seventh or sixth place. It's around there.
ORDOÑEZ: Republican front-runner former President Donald Trump is certainly watching those numbers.
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DONALD TRUMP: When you look at the poll numbers, how well we're doing with Hispanics and African Americans - nobody's ever seen anything like it. They're a little concerned, the Democrats.
ORDOÑEZ: Jeremy Hughes, a Republican strategist, says Trump made major gains in 2020. Now most of the local data shows Latino voters are more open than ever to supporting Republicans.
JEREMY HUGHES: The message is simple. Were you better off four years ago than you are now? And that's why the economy is the No. 1 issue with folks.
ORDOÑEZ: But anyone who thinks this is going to be a walk in the park for Republicans is sadly mistaken. Just look at 2022, when state Republicans tried to capitalize on those same trends. They had a big win with now-Governor Joe Lombardo, but in the same election, they came up short when they targeted Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Masto.
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ORDOÑEZ: But there is always more interest in a presidential election. Luis Manuel Gamamojica (ph) helps manage a taco restaurant with his daughter. He sees more and more Latinos here in Nevada considering Trump, and he says he's not concerned by Trump's fiery rhetoric about migrants arriving at the border.
LUIS MANUEL GAMAMOJICA: (Through interpreter) Those are only words that he tells people.
ORDOÑEZ: What he says is most important are his actions and, in Gamamojica's opinion, the results. And like Rosales and Hidalgo, he's thinking a lot about the economy.
GAMAMOJICA: (Through interpreter) The economy's most important. It moves business and creates opportunities.
ORDOÑEZ: And that is what he says has the most direct and immediate impact on his family and, therefore, his vote. Franco Ordoñez, NPR News, Las Vegas.
(SOUNDBITE OF BEHANI SONG, "COMFORTABLE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
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