I’d guess there’s an 80 percent chance right now that one of them will end up as nominee, so consider this a sneak preview of how viciously red-in-tooth-and-claw nasty the left will be next summer.

Liberal Hispanic groups have launched a new campaign designed to turn Latino voters against the two Cuban American Republicans who have risen to the top tier of the GOP presidential field — assailing Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz as traitors to their own culture.

Radio and online ads, social media posts and public discussions with Hispanic leaders in swing states are accusing Cruz and Rubio, senators from Texas and Florida, respectively, of fighting against immigration reforms, a minimum wage increase and other changes that millions of Latinos support. Many of the ads equate the two candidates to GOP front-runner Donald Trump, whose sharp rhetoric on immigration has until now drawn most of the attention of Hispanic activists…

At a Monday gathering in Nevada of Democratic Hispanic leaders, ahead of tonight’s GOP debate in Las Vegas, photos of Cruz and Rubio were plastered alongside Trump’s picture, as all three were criticized as anti-Latino. A press release noted, “While Trump continues to grab headlines with his hateful anti-Latino, anti-immigrant language, the positions and records of the two Latino presidential candidates in the race are equally dangerous for Nevada communities.”

Dolores Huerta, an influential labor leader and civil rights activist, called Cruz and Rubio “sellouts” and “traitors” at the gathering and said the Hispanic candidates “are turning their backs on the Latino community.”

“Traitors to their own culture” is a euphemism for the real charge. In fact, often when the subject of Rubio’s prospects comes up, you’ll find Democrats at pains to say that there really is no common Latino political “culture.” Anyone who thinks Rubio’s going to clean up with Latino voters is missing the fact that Cuban-Americans are different from Mexican-Americans, traditionally tilting more Republican than other Latino groups because of their suffering under Castroism. Now suddenly Rubio and Cruz are traitors to Latino “culture” writ large rather than traitors to their race, an uglier charge that’s implied here but which even professional Democrats are nervous (for the moment) to level. Looking forward to seeing that distinction parsed circa fall 2016.

Beyond that, I hope we all understand that the reason liberals are eager to knife Cruz and Rubio this early isn’t just that they’re both serious threats to win, which itself disrupts the narrative that “the white party” would never support a minority as nominee. It’s because the Democratic bench is embarrassingly thin when it comes to Latino pols with a national profile. All of America’s biggest Latino political stars are Republican — Rubio and Cruz first and foremost but also Susana Martinez and Brian Sandoval, either one of whom could end up on a national ticket before they’re through. Who’s the most prominent Latino Democrat? Bob Menendez? Luis Gutierrez? So strapped is the left for Latino stars that Julian Castro, a total (but camera-friendly) nobody, was plucked from his basically ceremonial role as mayor of San Antonio and made the head of HUD in order to give him a tiny bit of national experience in case Hillary needs a Latino on the ticket next year. Which, I think, she will if either Rubio or Cruz is the nominee. This sort of shrieking demagoguery from Latino Democrats won’t be enough to blunt the threat; Hillary will need to pander with a Latino running mate of her own and Castro is the likely pick, even though he’s less qualified than then-Governor Sarah Palin was in 2008. It’s a cliche that the nastiest political attacks are born from fear, but it’s true in this case. Accusing Rubio and Cruz of being “anti-Latino” is a fig leaf for the fact that Latino pols are also-rans in the Democratic establishment.

Speaking of tense encounters with Latino activists yesterday, Team Cruz sat down with Latino Republicans to explain their position on immigration. If you like Cruz, you’ll like him more after this. No pandering.

Cruz’s campaign chairman, Chad Sweet, and other staff attended a closed-door meeting with Latino Republican leaders and said unequivocally that Cruz opposes any form of legalization for immigrants already in the U.S. without legal permission, said Alfonso Aguilar, director of Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, who has been a spokesman for the group that met in Las Vegas.

“They stated very clearly the senator believes in ‘attrition through enforcement,'” Aguilar said Monday. He added that, based on the explanation, Cruz is backing self deportation but calling it by another name.

“For all intents and purposes (self deportation) describes what they are proposing,” said Aguilar.

I’m … a little surprised by that, since Ted Cruz himself has consistently refused to rule out legalization for some illegals once various security improvements (which are designed to encourage self-deportation) have been put in place. But as I say, credit to his team for sticking to their guns in front of activists who are obviously hostile to the plan. On the other hand, Mark Krikorian notes that this same story claims that Chad Sweet supposedly claimed that Cruz wants to increase legal immigration. That used to be a standard Cruz position but ever since Trump started gobbling up border-hawk votes, Cruz has veered (further) right. When he announced his immigration plan last month, he said that legal immigration would have to be halted “so long as American unemployment remains unacceptably high,” whatever that means. That was his way of ingratiating himself with Jeff Sessions fans and convincing Trumpers that he’s thinking about immigration as an economic issue, not just as a cultural or national security matter. Did Sweet say something different in yesterday’s meeting? Did he, perhaps, say that unemployment is not “unacceptably high” at the moment, which means President Cruz would allow legal immigration for the time being? Clarification would be welcome.