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Opinion: Think Trump Won't Get Latino Voters? Not So Fast

While most Latinos may not love Trump, like he says, here are some reasons why he may just garner at least a quarter of the Latino vote.
Image: Trump addresses a rally in Anaheim
Presumptive Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses a campaign rally, May 25, 2016 in Anaheim, California.ROBYN BECK / AFP - Getty Images

There is no more hoping and dreaming by the GOP establishment that they can grab a big chunk of the Latino vote in 2016.

Building on George W. Bush’s 2004 Latino vote share of 44 percent will have to wait, again.

But not all hope is gone. While most Latinos don’t love Trump as he asserts - let's be very clear about that - he’ll be likable enough. I think he’ll at least get a quarter of the Latino vote—what Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney received. In fact, he may just surpass Romney and flirt with thirty percent.

The most recent NBC News/WSJ poll has Trump with 20 percent of registered Latino voters. The most recent Fox News Latino poll has him with 23 percent of the Latino vote.

RELATED: Donald Trump: 'I Will Win the Latino Vote'

At first blush it doesn’t make sense that someone who characterizes Mexicans as drug dealers and rapists and who leads supporters to chant about building a nonsensical wall on the U.S.-Mexico border could garner any Latino support.

However there are a couple of interrelated reasons that explain why Trump will get around the same amount of Latino love as the last GOP presidential candidate.

Latinos are not homogeneous

Yes, the majority of Latinos identify with the Democratic Party or lean toward it. But depending on what state you’re in there’s usually around 20 percent (give or take) of Latinos that identify with the GOP. Latinos identify most as Independents rather than with either party so there is some wiggle room.

Latinos are also diverse along country of origin lines and immigration generation. While we know from research that Latinos as a whole are more in favor of immigration reform the influence of the issue is going to be a little different for a first generation immigrant versus a 5th-generation immigrant.

A general campaign is not the same as a primary campaign

In primary contests candidates run to the extremes and in the general election they moderate. Trump won’t suddenly embrace Latinos but stylistically his tone will soften.

We already saw a preview of that last week when Trump gave a video address to the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. We saw a subdued candidate talk about solving minority unemployment, bringing back jobs, creating great schools, and lowering the debt. When Trump spoke about Hispanics specifically he said he would to create, “really safe communities because our communities in many cases are not safe which is very, very unfair to Hispanics and frankly everybody else.”

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And of course Trump brought up immigration. There was no mention of Mexican drug dealers or The Wall, instead, “we’re going to stop drugs from pouring into our country, we’re going to strengthen our borders, people are going to come into our country but they’re going to come in through a process, come in legally…”

He’s locked down his base with the anti-immigrant bluster. Now he just needs to expand his voter pool. If the address to the National Hispanic Christian Conference is any indication of what’s to come we’ll see less of the Mexican "rapists" comments and more of his populist economic message.

Aspirational Branding

Unlike Mitt Romney or any other rich politico, Trump brags instead of demurs about his wealth. He boasts about his money, his Ivy League education, the plane, the hotels and the beautiful people he’s surrounded by. But it’s not his rich contemporaries who constitute his main supporters.

These folks are not voting for Trump because, “he’s just like them.” They’re voting for him because they want to be him.

RELATED: What Now? Latinos Feel Locked Out of GOP as Trump Nears Nomination

In the consumer marketing world what Trump is doing is referred to as aspirational marketing. Why is it that most of the models in our TV ads are thinner and better looking than the vast majority of America? It’s because aspiration is an incredibly powerful force — as humans we aspire for better and we will work toward pursuing that.

It’s a tried-and-true mechanism in consumer marketing and Trump has showed how effective it is in politics. Why should Latino voters be immune to Trump’s message of a wealth and success? Immigrants are by definition aspirational — they come to a new land for a promise of a better life, and they've inculcated that in their children, too. It's not a stretch to see how Trump’s messaging could connect with some voters who think he represents the definition of success and overlook his negative rhetoric and his

There will be Latinos who just like Trump’s style and aspirational message and can look past his bluster and outrageous statements as well as his dangerous dance with conspiracy theories. And then there will be those who don’t like Trump but believe in the GOP. Either way, there will be Latinos who vote for him — as of now, that portion is believed to stand at 20 percent. And that’s before Trump has gotten into his moderate general election groove.

Mark my words, come November Trump will get 25, maybe even 30 percent of the Latino vote.

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