Some leading conservative Latinos are using Wednesday's Republican debate at the University of Colorado Boulder to denounce Donald Trump and to put the rest of the candidates on notice.
The dozen-plus national Hispanic Republicans who gathered in Boulder on Tuesday had one very clear message for the presidential candidates: A hard line on immigration might boost their chances in the primary race but it won’t help in the general election.
"You don’t need us now, you won’t have us then. You insult us now, we will be deaf to you then," said Rosario Marin, who served as U.S. Treasurer under President George W. Bush.
Marin says she won’t dirty her mouth with the name of the candidate who most concerns her. But Tony Suarez with the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference was happy to call Donald Trump out directly for his disparaging comments about immigrants.
"His candidacy needs to end like his last reality television program. It needs to be canceled," Suarez said.
The people attending Tuesday’s meeting describe themselves as the leaders the Republican Party relies on to get out the Latino vote, and threatened to stay on the sidelines if Trump wins the nomination.
The group says it is also prepared to withhold support from other potential nominees if they take similar hardline stances -- for instance, backing mass deportation of undocumented immigrants.
Alfonso Aguilar is with the American Principles Project, a conservative think tank, and he says unless candidates get serious about courting the Latino vote, they just risk extending Republicans’ losing streak in presidential elections.
"This is about exercising political power: the Latino community within the conservative movement becoming mature and sophisticated and exercising our power," Aguilar said.
At the same time that Republican Latino leaders are pushing the party to pick a candidate they can support, liberal groups are using Wednesday’s debate to argue that Latinos should avoid the GOP altogether.