One of the moderators in one of my favorite conservative communities on Google+ (yes, it still exists) recently published a post in which she praised Rick Perry’s response to Donald Trump’s statements on immigration and border security, while criticizing Ted Cruz for his. She’s not the only one who believes that Republicans have to distance themselves from the successful businessman, fearing they’ll alienate Hispanic voters if they don’t.
Moderator Leslie P. quotes from this article by Jon Gabriel:
Perry is setting himself up as the grown-up in the race. Along with his race speech a couple weeks back, it’s Perry, not Trump, who is the truth-teller of 2016.
Although it might seem wise to distance oneself from Trump because of the Hispanic vote, I believe Republican candidates are making a tragic mistake when they actually do so. I like to compare The Donald to Geert Wilders, who probably is the best known Dutch politician in the rest of the world, and especially in the United States.
Despite his fame, Wilders’ party is relatively small and has little to no influence. This while the biggest rightist party of the Netherlands (the VVD) is in power (and actually occupies the prime minister’s office). The reason Wilders is less influential than many thought he would be is simple: when election time arrived, the VVD was disturbed by Wilders’ anti-immigrant and anti-Islam comments, but the party also realized that many conservative and classically liberal voters shared his concerns. So what they did was simple: instead of ignoring Wilders or telling him to bugger off, they said that — unlike most other politicians — he had the courage to talk about certain polarizing issues that needed to be addressed. Yes, their take on them was different, but they shared his concerns and his view that immigration (from Muslim countries) had to be limited.
While Wilders was polling exceptionally well when attacked by all other parties, the VVD included, his poll numbers dropped when the VVD actually took him and his potential supporters seriously. The result? The VVD won two elections in a row.
A lot of voters who sympathize with a guy like Wilders or Trump come to their senses eventually, but only if they know that other candidates (or parties) care about them and their concerns. Alienate them too much and you may very well lose them forever — at which point a few extra Hispanic voters don’t matter.
Ted Cruz seems to be the only Republican candidate to understand this, which is undoubtedly one of the reasons that he’s in second place fundraising wise, right behind master fundraiser Jeb Bush.