Trump’s bravado has stay­ing power

Pres­i­dent’s ma­cho brand still ap­peals to His­panic men

Baltimore Sun - - OBITUARIES - By Jen­nifer Me­d­ina

PHOENIX — They packed into the room to cheer their he­roes.

The crowd of more than 100 hollered en­thu­si­as­ti­cally at Henry Cejudo, a lo­cal hero and Olympic gold medal­ist, the son of un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants from Mex­ico who had gone on to be­come a mixed mar­tial arts su­per­star

But they were re­ally there to cel­e­brate Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

Wear­ing red Make Amer­ica Great Again hats, sev­eral men held gi­ant Amer­i­can flags and stood in front of sev­eral cam­paign signs: “Lati­nos for Trump,” “Cops for Trump” and an­other im­plor­ing them to text “WOKE” to get the lat­est in­for­ma­tion on the cam­paign.

In the words of Eric Trump, the pres­i­dent’s son and the head­liner of the event, the bat­tle is sim­ple. It’s right ver­sus wrong, he said, to a loud round of cheers.

“They are try­ing to can­cel our voice, guys.”

Men are the core of Trump’s base. In polling, gen­der gaps ex­ist in nearly ev­ery de­mo­graphic: among white vot­ers, among se­nior cit­i­zens, among vot­ers with­out a col­lege de­gree, men are far more likely than women to sup­port his re­elec­tion. And lit­tle of that sup­port has shifted in the days since Trump an­nounced he had tested pos­i­tive for the coron­avirus. Polls sug­gest that this pres­i­den­tial elec­tion could re­sult in the largest gen­der gap since the pas­sage of the 19th Amend­ment a cen­tury ago.

Then there is one of the most en­dur­ing ques­tions of the Trump ap­peal: Who are

the nearly 30% of His­panic vot­ers who say they sup­port him, de­spite his anti-im­mi­gra­tion rhetoric and poli­cies?

There is no one sim­ple an­swer. Trump has strong back­ing from Cuban and Venezue­lan ex­iles in South Florida, who like his stance against com­mu­nism. And his cam­paign has heav­ily courted evan­gel­i­cal Lati­nos through­out the coun­try. But no other group wor­ries Democrats more than Amer­i­can-born His­panic men, par­tic­u­larly those un­der 45, who polls show are highly skep­ti­cal of for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den.

Yet what has alien­ated so many older, fe­male and sub­ur­ban vot­ers is a key part of Trump’s ap­peal to these men, in­ter­views with dozens of Mex­i­can-Amer­i­can men sup­port­ing Trump shows: To them, the ma­cho al­lure of Trump is un­de­ni­able. He is force­ful, wealthy and, most im­por­tant, un­apolo­getic. In a world where at any mo­ment some­one

might be at­tacked for say­ing the wrong thing, he says the wrong thing all the time and does not bother with self­flag­el­la­tion.

“I feel so pow­er­ful,” the pres­i­dent de­clared at a rally Mon­day in Florida, stand­ing in front of Air Force One. Lest any­one miss the mes­sage, the rally ended with “Ma­cho Man” by the Vil­lage Peo­ple blast­ing on­the speak­ers

Paul Ol­larsaba Jr., a 41year-old Ma­rine vet­eran, voted for a Repub­li­can for the first time in 2016, won over by what he saw as Trump’s com­mit­ment to the mil­i­tary.

“I amMex­i­can,” Ol­larsaba said, adding that for years he thought that meant he had to vote for Democrats. When he be­gan sup­port­ing Trump in 2016, his fam­ily os­tra­cized him. “My par­ents say: ‘Why are you sup­port­ing a racist? You’re Mex­i­can, you have to vote this way,’ ” he said. “No, it’s my coun­try. It’s fear, peo­ple are afraid of say­ing they sup­port the pres­i­dent.”

Cejudo clearly had no such fear. When Trump hosted large ral­lies in Ne­vada last month, Cejudo joined sev­eral other MMA fight­ers who backed his cam­paign.

“I’ve been the big­gest fan of him,” said Cejudo, 33, re­call­ing watch­ing “The Ap­pren­tice” in a high school class. “We need a busi­ness­man, we need some­body like this to run our coun­try.”

Other at­ten­dees at the event with Cejudo and Eric Trump spoke of watch­ing Trump on “The Ap­pren­tice,” say­ing they liked his strong style, his ap­par­ent con­fi­dence in his own opin­ions. In in­ter­views, they said they viewed his ac­tions as pres­i­dent much in the same way: Even those they do not whole­heart­edly agree with, they see as fur­ther ev­i­dence of his strength.

They said they saw his de­fi­ance of widely ac­cepted med­i­cal guid­ance in the face of his own ill­ness not as a sign of poor lead­er­ship, but one of a man who does his own re­search to reach his

own con­clu­sion. They see his dis­dain for masks as an ex­am­ple of his tough­ness, his in­ces­sant in­ter­rup­tions dur­ing the de­bate with Bi­den as an ef­fec­tive use of his power.

Though His­panic women over­whelm­ingly sup­port Bi­den, His­panic men ap­pear to have a per­sis­tent dis­com­fort, with polls show­ing him strug­gling to main­tain more than 60% of the group, far be­low his av­er­age among non­white vot­ers. (Polls show him still well ahead of Trump’s roughly 30% sup­port from His­panic vot­ers.)

Bi­den has not done enough to di­rectly reach out to these young Latino men, Repub­li­can and Demo­cratic strate­gists say.

“You have these U.S.-born His­panic males un­der 40 who are pretty Trumpy, the ques­tion is why?” said Mike Madrid, a Repub­li­can con­sul­tant in­volved with the Lin­coln Pro­ject, which is work­ing to get Trump out of the White House.

Both par­ties have of­ten fo­cused their out­reach ef­forts on white, work­ing­class vot­ers, though many His­panic men share the same ba­sic pri­or­i­ties. “They’re English dom­i­nant, they are fac­ing very sim­i­lar eco­nomic sit­u­a­tions, lis­ten­ing to the same me­dia,” Madrid said.

Af­ter fac­ing months of per­sis­tent crit­i­cism that it was not do­ing enough to reach out to Latino vot­ers, the Bi­den cam­paign has re­leased sev­eral Span­ish lan­guage ad­ver­tise­ments in the last few weeks, in­clud­ing one fea­tur­ing Bad Bunny, a pop star known for his gen­der-fluid style. Other ad­ver­tise­ments fo­cus heav­ily on the way the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion tar­geted Lati­nos, a mes­sage that sim­ply doesn’t res­onate among men who do not want to see them­selves pitied.

Yet the ad­mi­ra­tion of Trump re­veals some­thing deeper as well. Demo­cratic poll­sters who have closely tracked His­panic men say they are more likely to pri­or­i­tize jobs and the econ­omy and less likely to be con­cerned about im­mi­gra­tion and racism. Many His­panic men are sin­gu­larly fo­cused on earn­ing a liv­ing, gain­ing an eco­nomic edge that they can pass on to their chil­dren. There is a deep be­lief in an up-by-your-boot­straps men­tal­ity — and that Trump did no such thing seems ut­terly be­side the point.

In in­ter­views with scores of His­panic Trump sup­port­ers at events in Florida, New Mex­ico, Ne­vada and Ari­zona over the last year, nearly ev­ery­one said their pol­i­tics an­gered some friends and fam­ily, and re­jected any sug­ges­tion that their sup­port was based on anti-im­mi­grant at­ti­tudes.

And it is not quite as­sim­i­la­tion ei­ther: These men are proud to be Latino, chil­dren and grand­chil­dren of Mex­i­can im­mi­grants specif­i­cally, and many have made an ef­fort to con­tinue speak­ing Span­ish.


Sup­port­ers of Pres­i­dent Trump pose with his son, Eric, last month in Phoenix. Lati­nos for Trump or­ga­nized the event.

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