Republicans had millions of reasons to recoil when Donald Trump said a judge of Mexican descent couldn’t handle his lawsuit fairly.
Namely, the millions of voters it takes to win the White House.
Specifically, the minority voters who powered President Barack Obama into office, as well as the college-educated and suburban white voters who weren’t enthusiastic about Trump during the GOP primary.
Republican strategists and donors say Trump’s latest foray into racial politics frustrates the party’s efforts to win over those voters. As the Republican National Committee acknowledged after Mitt Romney’s 2012 loss to Obama, it will be almost impossible for a Republican to win competitive battleground states without them.
“It’s not that Donald Trump has created a demographic problem for Republicans,” said Chip Lake, a Republican campaign consultant from Georgia. “That’s existed for a long time. But he’s highlighted the problem.”
Republican donor Fred Malek noted that many voters are just beginning to pay close attention to Trump and presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
“Moderate and conservative Republicans want to come around behind our nominee,” said Malek, chairman of a fundraising group backing Republican congressional candidates. “And they are halted in their tracks when they see comments like this.”
Indeed, the electoral math is daunting for Republicans even without Trump. As America becomes more diverse, the percentage of white voters is declining.
Trump argues that he is a movement candidate who can generate strong white support but also attract more African-Americans and Latinos than GOP nominees typically get. He points to record turnout for GOP primaries.
Yet an Associated Press-Gfk Poll in April, as Trump barreled toward the nomination, found seven out of 10 voters viewed him negatively. Those findings spanned gender, ideological, racial and educational lines.
Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton opened her general election campaign against Donald Trump on Wednesday by accusing him of behaving like a “demagogue,” likening his attacks on judges, the media, his opponents and their families to dark moments in world history.
“It’s classic behavior by a demagogue,” she said in a telephone interview with The AP. “We’ve seen it many, many places and times in the world, and that’s why I think it’s so dangerous.”