Hispanic leaders are warning of significant damage to Republican White House hopes unless the party’s presidential contenders condemn real estate mogul Donald Trump after he’s refused to apologize for calling Mexican immigrants rapists and drug dealers…

“The time has come for the candidates to distance themselves from Trump and call his comments what they are: ludicrous, baseless and insulting,” said Alfonso Aguilar, a Republican who leads the American Principles Project’s Latino Partnership. “Sadly, it hurts the party with Hispanic voters. It’s a level of idiocy I haven’t seen in a long time.”…

“We’re listening very, very closely, not just what candidates say but what they don’t say — the sins of commission and the sins of omission,” said Rev. Gabriel Salguero, president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, who called Trump’s comments “xenophobic rhetoric.”

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“Donald Trump’s comments are hurtful for the cause of Republicans who want to reach out not just to Latinos but across many different ethnic barriers,” said Ben Domenech, founder of The Federalist, a conservative opinion website, who co-authored a 2012 guide for Republicans on Hispanic outreach. “The problem with those comments is made worse by the fact that people will continue to confuse Trump with a Republican, which he is not, as opposed to thinking of him as an entertainer, which he is.”…

Earlier this week, RNC chairman Reince Priebus, who initiated the party’s multi-million outreach program called Trump’s comments “not helpful,” according to The Washington Post…

“He’s just wrong on policy. Flat-out. It’s unkind and it mischaracterizes the contributions of the entire immigrant community,” said Daniel Garza, executive director of the Libre Initiative. “They’ve brought wealth to America and ingenuity and innovation. The fact that Donald Trump is wrong both on sentiment and policy has allowed the Latino left to pile on. And there’s something valid about what they’re saying, that this is wrong in both content, style and policy.”

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Republican operatives working in the primary campaign fret that Trumpisms, such as calling illegal immigrants from Mexico “rapists,” as he did last month when announcing his bid for the Republican nomination, could doom the party with minorities and independents in the 2016 general election…

“Trump needs to be confronted and we need to disassociate our party from his kind of rhetoric,” a veteran of Romney’s campaign said.

“I don’t think what he said hurts the field yet,” added another Republican, working for a 2016 candidate, “but if he is allowed on the debate stage and can perform like the showman he is, he is not a serious candidate; he is a self-promoter. I don’t think he cares one lick about party and that makes him dangerous to the process.”

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“Picture him on stage in [the GOP debate in] Cleveland,” [George] Will said on Fox News Sunday this morning. “He says something hideously inflammatory — which is all he knows how to say — and then what do the other nine people on stage do? Do they either become complicit in what he said by their silence, or do they all have to attack him? The debate gets hijacked. The process gets hijacked. At the end of the day he is a one-man Todd Akin. He’s Todd Akin with ten different facets.”…

As for Trump, Will added that his antics were indistinguishable from those of a “Democratic mole” sent to wreak havoc upon the Republican field.

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DAVID BROOKS: It’s an actual crucial moment for the Republican Party. This was a slur, a completely inaccurate slur. It’s culture war politics of the worst sort.

If the Republican Party can’t stand up at this moment against this guy and make the obvious accurate case, then there will be in long-term trouble with Hispanics. They will be in short-term trouble because they will have self-polarized themselves…

It’s really essential that the Bushes and the Rubios say something.

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“To make these extraordinarily ugly kind of comments is not reflective of the Republican Party,” [Jeb] Bush said about Mr. Trump, whose comments caused NBC, Univision, Macy’s and others to cut ties with him.

“He’s doing this — he’s not a stupid guy, so I don’t assume he thinks that every Mexican crossing the border is a rapist. He’s doing this to inflame and incite and to draw attention, which seems to be the organizing principle of his campaign,” Mr. Bush said.

Asked if he took Mr. Trump’s remarks personally, given his family, Mr. Bush became a little cross.

“Yeah, of course it — absolutely — and a lot of other people” did as well, he said. “But politically, we’re going to win when we’re hopeful and optimistic and big and broad rather than errrrr, grrrr, just angry all the time. This is an exaggerated form of that, and there is no tolerance for it.”

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You can read [Marco] Rubio’s full statement here:

Trump’s comments are not just offensive and inaccurate, but also divisive. Our next president needs to be someone who brings Americans together – not someone who continues to divide. Our broken immigration system is something that needs to be solved, and comments like this move us further from – not closer to – a solution. We need leaders who offer serious solutions to secure our border and fix our broken immigration system.”

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Read Trump’s statement below:..

“Today, Jeb Bush once again proves that he is out of touch with the American people. Just like the simple question asked of Jeb on Iraq, where it took him five days and multiple answers to get it right, he doesn’t understand anything about the border or border security. In fact, Jeb believes illegal immigrants who break our laws when they cross our border come ‘out of love.’

“As everybody knows, I never said that all Mexicans crossing the border are rapists. Jeb is mischaracterizing my statements only to inflame. As seen with the tragic and unnecessary death of Kathryn Steinle this past week in San Francisco at the hands of an illegal immigrant who was previously deported five times, our unsecured border is a national security threat.”

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Trump’s adviser told Breitbart News that his boss can’t wait to expose Rubio’s weakness on immigration:

“Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has zero credibility on securing our border. Nothing has been more ‘divisive’ than the outright lies Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) used to try and sell his amnesty for illegal immigrants to the American people. Hard working Americans cannot depend on Senator Rubio to protect their jobs. Senator Rubio’s ‘Gang of Eight” bill, which was such an epic failure it never even came up for a vote in the House, would have given President Obama the immediate power to grant amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants. Trump’s team seems ready to hone in on Rubio’s biggest weakness: That he worked with senior Democrats like Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and the now-indicted Bob Menendez (D-NJ) to put forward an amnesty bill last Congress. Rubio eventually backed away from his own bill after he tanked in the polls.”

“Rubio flip flopped on the bill for political expediency with the explanation that he could not expect President Obama to enforce it. Why would Rubio have given Obama this authority in the first place?” Trump’s adviser said.

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Republicans are generally not predisposed to think of Trump’s harsh remarks as racist, as many in the media have called them. In a September 2014 Pew poll, just 28 percent of Republicans said they believed that Hispanics face a lot of discrimination in the United States. To cite one example, Sean Hannity, the conservative talk-show host, said recently that Trump’s remarks were not “racially tinged.” A majority of Democrats (64 percent), on the other hand, said there was a lot of discrimination against Hispanics in the U.S.

Trump’s populist grandstanding, in fact, lines up with the views of a high percentage of Republicans. A majority of Republicans think immigrants — regardless of how they entered the U.S. — “burden” the country rather than make it stronger. In the May 2015 Pew survey, 63 percent of Republicans felt this way compared with 32 percent of Democrats. Just 27 percent of Republicans said immigrants made the country stronger, which was the lowest percentage recorded since 2004…

Now, it would be easy to associate Trump’s recent rise in the polls with his comments on immigration and Mexicans, but they’re probably not the cause. His bump probably occurred because his name has been mentioned everywhere, not because of his actual policy positions. That said, those comments aren’t likely to hurt him. In fact, when Republicans are exposed to his views in a debate, you probably won’t hear universal condemnation. There might actually be some applause.

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In 2011, El Paso, Texas, had the lowest crime rate ranking of any city with 500,000 or more residents. That is despite being just across the Rio Grande from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico — which in 2011 had the second highest murder rate of any city on Earth.

The same pattern shows up away from the border as well. In his extensive research on Chicago — a city Trump cited for its violent crime — Harvard sociologist Robert Sampson has found “a significantly lower rate of violence among Mexican-Americans compared to blacks and whites.”

Sampson thinks it is no coincidence that crime rates nationwide have plunged over the past two decades just as immigrants, authorized and unauthorized, were arriving in record numbers.

In the first place, these newcomers are generally less prone to break the law than native-born Americans are. Most Mexicans who undertake the risks and sacrifices required to come here want to work at honest jobs and provide for their families, not rape and kill. Mexicans who want to rape and kill, after all, can find plenty of suitable targets without leaving home.

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Trump does pose an existential problem for conservatives. Remember that this man has given money to Hillary Clinton in the past – so he is a carpet bagger on the Right. Yet by shouting so loudly about issues that the Left presumes the Right is obsessed with, he becomes a stick with which Democrats can hit Republicans. He is a very useful idiot.

Republicans have a Mexican problem. Spanish speakers, who are a flourishing demographic, tend not to vote for them. Unless the GOP can address its image problem then it’s going to struggle ever to win back the White House. That doesn’t mean totally abandoning its commitment to secure borders – America has a serious illegal immigration problem and the federal government has not been enforcing the law. But it probably isn’t wise to go around accusing Mexican migrants of rape. It would be far more useful to fashion a message that is relentlessly upbeat and positive about conservatism. Remember that Ronald Reagan didn’t cajole, threaten and smear his way into the presidency. He employed humour and warmth. It’s one of the bitter ironies of modern conservatives that so many idolize Reagan yet display qualities that are the anthesis of his style. They don’t understand the nice guy who once gave them power; they just grumble and groan about there being so few men like him anymore…

He might be a rich man but he claims to represent the interests of the very poorest; he doesn’t sound like he’s worth billions. Yet Trump’s deceptively simple politics smells of snake oil. The man who sells his own brand of tie is essentially selling success: “wear this and someday you, too, will be a billionaire”. As it goes with shabby retail, so it goes with politics. “Vote for me and someday you, too, will be a billionaire.” Expect Trump to criss-cross Iowa offering a free set of steak knives for the first hundred people to caucus for him. If he makes it to Iowa because, as I say, I suspect he’ll quit town while he’s ahead. Smart fraudsters generally do.

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It’s easier to see Bush winning a Mitt Romney-style war of attrition against Trump for the GOP nomination too. With Walker, Rubio or Paul, conservatives might not face such a dilemma between their hearts and their heads. They can vote for the candidate they think is more conservative without getting laughed out of the room in the general election.

If it’s Trump vs. Bush, not only are there serious questions about the brash reality TV star’s conservatism, there would be an electability gap the former Florida governor could exploit to win the nomination. And if a strong stance against illegal immigration is what’s fueling Trump’s momentum, it would be ironic, to say the least, for Bush to be the beneficiary.

Perhaps Trump’s rise is primarily attributable to name ID and media attention, especially since most of the field can’t consistently break into double digits. But some conservative prioritize combativeness and irritating liberals over policy accomplishments or political philosophy. They could be tossing aside the best chance they’ve had since 1980 to turn to the Republican establishment and say, “You’re fired.”

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