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Donald Trump Faces Criticism Over Comments About Latino Judge


Turning to the Republicans now and Donald Trump's attacks on a federal judge. Trump is a defendant in a class action lawsuit against Trump University, his failed real estate school. He's accused the judge, Gonzalo Curiel, of bias because of Curiel's Mexican heritage. Republicans over the weekend tried to answer for Trump's comments.


NEWT GINGRICH: I think that it was a mistake. I think that it - I hope it was sloppiness.


CHUCK TODD: Is it a racist statement?

MITCH MCCONNELL: I couldn't disagree more with what he had to say.


BOB CORKER: Look, I don't condone the comments. And we can press on to another topic.

CORNISH: That's Republican Newt Gingrich along with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Tennessee Senator Bob Corker. Now for more on the fallout, we turn to NPR's political reporter, Asma Khalid. Welcome, Asma.


CORNISH: So is Trump appealing to anyone with this kind of talk?

KHALID: Well, I think in a nutshell, he's appealing to his base. And I say that because some research has shown Trump supporters are more likely to dislike minorities. I was looking through this survey that was conducted during the primary season for the American National Election Studies in which it showed that white identity and nativism were central to Donald Trump supporters.

So I think what that means is that when he calls the judge who's presiding over the lawsuits against Trump University a Mexican - you know, even though he's born in Indiana, the judge - I would say it plays well with his base. If he were to back off now and change his mind, I think he would look weak to those supporters.

CORNISH: Let's dig in more on the Republican side. We heard some Republican leaders speaking earlier. Is there anyone else in the party essentially at odds with this apparent nominee?

KHALID: So, Audie, what's most interesting to me is the reaction to Trump from Hispanic Republicans. Mitt Romney was able to get 27 percent of Latino voters in 2012, and so far Trump does not seem to be polling any better. One Hispanic Republican operative that I talked to today told me that Trump's comments about the federal judge make a lot of other Latinos nervous. You know, they wonder, will we be profiled? Is this how we could potentially be treated? But look, the Hispanic community is diverse.

I spoke to a cross-section of voters this morning. One guy is an official with the Miami Young Republicans, and he told me that he does not like Trump's tone, but he still plans on voting for him. And he says that's because wants to ensure Hillary Clinton is not the next president. And then I spoke with this guy at the Puerto Rican Bar Association in Florida. He's a lawyer who had been supporting Jeb Bush in the primary. And he told me there is no way he could support Trump.

He says even if Trump is the only name on the ballot, he refuses to vote for him. He thinks he's going to vote Libertarian this year. But for him - I think he was really disappointed by the party, by Republican leadership. He feels that they have not stood up to Trump and some of his race-based rhetoric.

CORNISH: But Republicans haven't been, like, counting on the Latino vote these last couple cycles, right? I mean, what's Trump's political calculus here?

KHALID: So perhaps Trump is focusing on states where the Latino vote is not as powerful - you know, some of these Rust Belt states like Ohio and Pennsylvania. His path relies on boosting turnout and support among white voters, specifically white men. And look, there are Republican Latinos who say they will support Donald Trump regardless. I've spoken to them.

But I think the bigger question throughout all of this is even if Trump can pull off a win this year, what does that mean for the Republican Party and its future? I talked to one Hispanic Republican activist who told me he's very worried that Trump could have a Goldwater effect on Latinos.

He was talking about Barry Goldwater, whose opposition to the 1964 Civil Rights Act solidified black voters as a democratic force. These days, you see black voters supporting the Democratic candidate by, like, 80-plus percent margins. And he doesn't want to see the same trend with Latinos.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Asma Khalid. Asma, thanks so much.

KHALID: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Asma Khalid is a White House correspondent for NPR. She also co-hosts The NPR Politics Podcast.