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Republicans see Latino voters in Nevada as key to retaking the White House in 2024

Christy Rosales owns a small clothing shop in a Latino market in East Las Vegas, Nev. She worries about the economy and that's why she plans to vote for Donald Trump in 2024.
Franco Ordonez/NPR
Christy Rosales owns a small clothing shop in a Latino market in East Las Vegas, Nev. She worries about the economy and that's why she plans to vote for Donald Trump in 2024.

LAS VEGAS — Shuffling through jeans on a clothing rack in her small store at a Latino market, Christy Rosales says she hopes Trump returns to office.

The 40-year-old native of Colombia complains that sales in her store have improved since COVID, but not to where they were before the pandemic.

"You can speak to many of the store owners here, those who have been here two or three years," she said in Spanish. "And they will say their numbers this year have dropped."

She understands it's not the most popular view here in East Las Vegas where it's almost as common to hear Spanish as English.

But she says the economy has the most direct impact on her family.

Nevada has had a slower economic recovery than much of the rest of the country because of its reliance on the hospitality and tourism industries. And Latinos have felt the brunt of that because of the high numbers employed in the service sector.

Latinos, who make up 20% of the electorate in Nevada, have long been regarded as a key constituency for Democrats, but Republicans sense an opportunity here where economic concerns are front and center.

So, former President Donald Trump is courting Latino voters in this key battleground state, while at the same time railing about an invasion at the southern border.

Political consultant Jesus Marquez speaks during a Commit to Caucus Rally with former US President and 2024 presidential hopeful Donald Trump (not pictured) in Las Vegas, Nevada on January 27, 2024.
/ Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images
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Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images
Political consultant Jesus Marquez speaks during a Commit to Caucus Rally with former President and 2024 presidential hopeful Donald Trump (not pictured) in Las Vegas on Jan. 27.

Jesus Marquez, a local political consultant who has advised several state Republicans, says Trump's focus on working class Americans resonates with working class Latinos in Las Vegas and across Nevada.

He points to polling that shows the cost of living, the economy, jobs and health care being the most important issues to the community.

"In fact, immigration falls down into like the seventh or sixth place. It's around there," he said.

At a recent rally in East Las Vegas, Trump boasted of beating President Biden.

And he pushed back on the idea that his strong language about the border turns off Latino voters.

"Nobody, to this day, can explain why this open wound is good for our country and even politically. Why is it good politically?" he said. "First of all, with the Hispanic vote, we're doing better now than the Democrat Party. So I think it's good for us."

In polls of Latino voters, such as a recent USA Today/Suffolk University poll, that showed Trump ahead 39% to Biden's 34%.

And while many Latinos raise concerns about Trump's proposed border polices, others welcome stronger enforcement.

Kilson Hidalgo, a 47-year-old glass worker originally from the Dominican Republic, says Latinos here don't like to talk about it.

"I'm an immigrant, too," he said. "But you have to come the right way. You know what saying. Some people don't want to see the way, but that's the way it is. You have to come legally."

Jeremy Hughes, a local Republican strategist, says most of the local data shows Latino voters are more open than ever to supporting Republicans.

"The message is simple," he said. "Were you better off four years ago then you are now?"

But anyone who thinks this is going to be a walk in the park for Republicans will be mistaken.

For example, in 2022, state Republicans tried to capitalize on these same trends.

They had a big win with now-Gov. Joe Lombardo. But, in the same election, they came up short when they targeted Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, seen as the most vulnerable incumbent in that election.

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/ Franco Ordonez/NPR
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Franco Ordonez/NPR
Luis Manuel Gama Mojica (left) and chef Blanca Sanchez stand in the kitchen of the taco restaurant owned by his daughter. Gama Mojica says the economy is one of the most important issues to him.

But Luis Manuel Gama Mojica says he was better off four years ago. Gama Mojica helps manage a taco restaurant owned by his daughter.

He says he's less concerned about Trump's fiery rhetoric about immigrants and more concerned about results.

And, like Rosales and Hidalgo, he's thinking a lot about the economy.

"The economy's most important," he said in Spanish. "It moves business and creates opportunities."

And he said that's what has the most direct impact on his family, and therefore his vote.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Franco Ordoñez is a White House Correspondent for NPR's Washington Desk. Before he came to NPR in 2019, Ordoñez covered the White House for McClatchy. He has also written about diplomatic affairs, foreign policy and immigration, and has been a correspondent in Cuba, Colombia, Mexico and Haiti.