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Trump campaign opens Reading office with pitch to Latino voters

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Trump campaign opens Reading office with pitch to Latino voters

Jun 13, 2024 | 9:00 am ET
By John Cole
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Trump campaign opens Reading office with pitch to Latino voters
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David McCormick, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania at the podium, alongside Berks County Commissioner Michael Rivera, Pennsylvania Republican Party Vice Chairwoman Bernie Comfort, and former governor of Puerto Rico Luis Fortuño (left to right) at the "Latino Americans for Trump” office opening in Reading June 12, 2024 (Capital-Star photo by John Cole)

READING — Donald Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign brought its focus on courting Latino American voters to Pennsylvania this week with an event in the city that has the commonwealth’s largest Latino population. But one of the Republicans on hand for the opening has previously criticized the former president and once called for his impeachment.

“Latinos represent an increasingly important voting bloc whose support can significantly impact election outcomes,” Berks County Commissioner Michael Rivera said. “We’re not only an economic powerhouse, but we are also a political powerhouse.”

Republican U.S. Senate candidate David McCormick, and former governor of Puerto Rico Luis Fortuño were also in attendance to drum up support for Trump and Republicans up and down the ballot at the “Latino Americans for Trump” office opening. 

“If you think the status quo is OK, you should vote for Bob Casey, not for me,” McCormick said. “If you want change, you should vote for me and that’s change up and down the ticket. Change with President Trump coming in the White House and bringing leadership, steady leadership, back to our country.”

The main areas of policy focus during the address from the various speakers included inflation, the U.S. Mexico border, crime, and education, pinning the blame on the Biden administration for the current status of all of them. 

“Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” Pennsylvania Republican Party Vice Chair Bernie Comfort, asked the crowd, which responded with loud “no’s.”

“Trump Force 47 is here to make sure that we get every vote,” she added.  

According to 2020 Census data, Reading has a 69% Hispanic population, making it the largest in Pennsylvania and one of only three cities in the state with a Hispanic population over 50%. The other two cities, Hazleton and Allentown, are within a two hour drive from Reading, with some dubbing it Pennsylvania’s “Latino Belt.” 

“In this election, everyone has to come out,” Fortuño said. “I want to speak especially to Hispanic Americans because our values are the values that David McCormick and his leadership, and President Trump represent.” 

That’s sharply different, however, from Fortuño’s comments about Trump on Jan. 6, 2021 following the attack on the U.S. Capitol. He wrote on Facebook that the former president “doesn’t deserve to be our President. He should be impeached, so that he can’t run for office again.”

Fortuño later signed on to an open letter with other former GOP members of Congress, including former Pennsylvania U.S. Reps. Charlie Dent and Jim Greenwood, encouraging Congress to “​​Put Country over Party and Impeach President Trump.”

In a 2016 post on X, then known as Twitter, Fortuño called Trump’s behavior “inexcusable” following the release of the Access Hollywood tape during the 2016 presidential campaign. 

Economy, inflation and health care are top concerns among Latino voters in Pa.

The Capital-Star is seeking comment from Fortuño about his previous remarks about Trump.

Biden has made eight appearances in must-win Pennsylvania so far in 2024, while Trump has made three visits. Trump’s most recent appearance in the Keystone State was in April for a rally in the Lehigh Valley, although he also rallied supporters in Wildwood, New Jersey in May to a crowd that included a large contingent of supporters from Pennsylvania.

Although Trump himself hasn’t appeared in Pennsylvania for nearly two months, his campaign is ratcheting up its voter outreach efforts in the state. Last week, his office opened its first office in Philadelphia and included a keynote address from U.S. Rep. Wesley Hunt (R-TX) at a podium with a sign reading “Black Americans for Trump.” 

Biden’s campaign has already opened 24 coordinated offices across Pennsylvania.

The Republican National Committee will be in Pennsylvania next week as a part of its “Protect the Vote Tour,” which is the party’s nationwide initiative that “will recruit poll watchers, poll workers, and legal experts to mobilize during the 2024 election season.”

The Biden campaign launched its Latino voter outreach program in March across several battleground states, including Pennsylvania. The Biden campaign also released a digital ad in three states last week, including Pennsylvania, for Trump’s affiliation with Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a longtime ally of Trump who was pardoned by him in 2017.

The Biden campaign said Wednesday that Trump did not care about the Latino community. 

“This is the same guy who campaigned with America’s most infamous sheriff and serial civil rights abuser, Joe Arpaio. Trump is the same guy who humiliated the Puerto Rican community by throwing paper towels at our families following Hurricane Maria and admitted that his underwhelming response in providing aid to the island was due to our ‘second-class citizen status,”’ Biden-Harris 2024 Pennsylvania Hispanic Media Press Secretary, Nemesis Mora said in an emailed statement.

“The convicted white-collar felon now thinks that by inviting two Puerto Ricans to his faux Latino outreach event in Pennsylvania, he will earn our community’s vote. It’s an insult to the intellect and dignity of every Latino voter,” Mora continued.

Sixty-nine percent of Hispanic/Latino voters in Pennsylvania supported Biden in 2020, while 27% supported Trump, according to NBC News exit polling. Although Biden outpaced Trump by over 40% with Latino voters, this was down from the margin Hillary Clinton had in 2016 when she received 74% and Trump tallied 22%.

Polling throughout this cycle has suggested that Biden doesn’t have the same advantage with Latino voters nationwide as he did during his previous run. An NBC News poll in April showed 49% of Latino voters supporting Biden, while Trump had 39%.

Pennsylvania doesn’t have as large of a Latino population like Arizona or Texas, but Latinos and Hispanics make up roughly 7.5% of the state’s voting population.

UnidosUS and Mi Familia Vota, Latino civil rights and advocacy organizations, said in December that 21% of Latinos in Pennsylvania will be voting in their first presidential election in 2024. 

McCormick said Wednesday he believes that more Latino Americans are embracing the Republican Party because of the party’s values. 

“Industrious, hard working, want the best thing for their children, and an economy where small businesses can prosper and create jobs, where they can raise their kids, in communities that are safe,” he told reporters. “And I think that lines up very well with the principles of the Republican Party and is very antithetical to what’s happening right now under President Biden with the economy and more socialist kinds of policies that are driving up inflation.” 

A Marist poll released on Wednesday showed Trump leading Biden by 2 points in Pennsylvania, while Casey leads McCormick by 6 points.