Time: Here comes Donald Trump's pivot on immigration

Will Donald Trump pivot on immigration, and will it come in time to make a difference? Before that answer, The Hill takes a look at the environment and wonders whether Hillary Clinton has a problem with Hispanic voters.  The focus from Mark Hensch and the headline falls on Hillary’s unfavorable rating, but she’s actually net positive among Latino voters and way ahead of Trump head-to-head:

Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton is viewed unfavorably by over 4 in 10 Hispanics, according to a new poll, though she holds a huge lead over Donald Trump with the voting bloc.

Forty-one percent of Hispanics in Friday’s Fox News Latino survey said they view Clinton negatively, compared with 56 percent who view her positively. Forty-two percent said she desires the presidency for herself and not for the good of the country.

The former secretary of State trails far behind President Obama when it comes to favorability among Hispanic voters. Seventy-two percent in the poll said they view Obama favorably, while only 26 percent expressed an unfavorable opinion.

That’s certainly true, which is why Republicans had a chance to make inroads among Hispanic voters in 2016. Not only is Hillary a much less popular figure across the board than Obama, but she doesn’t have the same organizational and personal-connection qualities as the outgoing president. A GOP candidate who could fill those gaps could have success in the election by wooing Hispanics, who could be ready for a fresh start after eight years of Obama.

However, a proper reading of that poll shows that Trump is not that candidate — at least not yet. The issue isn’t likeability as much as it is electability:

With less than six months to go before the presidential elections, Latinos overwhelmingly support Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton over presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, according to a Fox News Latino poll released on Friday.

The poll found that 62 percent of registered Latino voters would head to the ballot box for Clinton in November, while only 23 percent would support Trump on Election Day – a finding that many experts say is not surprising given the two candidates’ differing stances on issues important to Latinos. …

In terms of job performance, Hispanics said the former secretary of state would represent their views better than Trump (72 percent to 14 percent), making decisions about nuclear weapons (65 percent to 20 percent), nominating the next Supreme Court justice (66 percent to 24 percent) and making the decisions about using military force (60 percent to 29 percent), among other issues.

Clinton leads in every demographic group particularly among Latina women (68 to 17 percent) and among Mexican-Americans (the largest Hispanic group in the nation) 67 to 21 percent.

For comparison purposes, Trump’s performance in this poll falls about the same as Mitt Romney’s in 2012. Romney lost the Hispanic vote 71/27, a 44-point gap, and lost among Latinas 76/23. Hispanics made up 10% of the electorate in 2012, up slightly from 8% in 2004, when George W. Bush won narrowly over John Kerry while getting 44% of the Hispanic vote.

Does that doom Trump in a general election? It’s certainly not good news if those numbers don’t improve for the Republican nominee. That explains why Trump has lately shifted his tone on immigration while meeting with Hispanics, starting almost immediately after clinching the nomination. Time Magazine’s Elizabeth Dias reports today on the change in approach Trump took when meeting with a leading Hispanic evangelical leader that had been one of Ted Cruz’ advisers during the campaign:

The representative left the meeting expressing surprise at how supportive the presumptive Republican nominee had been. “Donald Trump showed a tremendous understanding and concern for the undocumented immigrants,” evangelical pastor Mario Bramnick. “We all came out really sensing his genuineness.”

Bramnick, a Cuban-American who advised Sen. Ted Cruz during the primary, came to the meeting as a representative of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC), which has more than 40,000 member churches. The group’s leader, pastor Samuel Rodriguez Jr., has been openly critical of Trump’s plan to build a southern wall and deport with force the roughly 10 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States. “It’s impossible,” Rodriguez says. “You’d have to have a Gestapo sort of apparatus, in the vein of World War II, putting people not on trains but airplanes.”

But in the meeting, Bramnick said Trump suggested a clear willingness to work with the Hispanic community. While Trump did not say he would revisit any of his policies, he signaled an openness to continue the conversation, Bramnick said. “We didn’t get into specifics other than that he wants to work with us, work with the Hispanic community, Hispanic leadership on substantive policy regarding immigration,” said Bramnick, who leads the Hispanic Israel Leadership Coalition, a subsidiary of the NHCLC, and New Wine Ministries, a 300-member congregation in Fort Lauderdale. Televangelist Frank Amedia, pastor of Touch Heaven Ministries and the Trump campaign’s new “liason for Christian policy,” arranged the meeting, Bramnick says, which lasted for about a half hour, and then included time with Trump’s son Eric.

To get the kind of effect that would move those numbers, Trump would have to shift that tone in public, not just in private summits with activists. He’ll have an opportunity to shift that tone more publicly in New Mexico next week, a state with the highest percentage of Hispanic voters, and with a Republican Latina as governor.

Back to the election. Trump’s supporters insist that his candidacy will turn out more voters than Romney and put more states in play, which will negate the demographic disadvantages Trump faces at this stage. One of those states claimed to be in play is New Jersey, but a Quinnipiac poll today shows Trump trailing Hillary by seven points and Trump not even breaking 40% despite being the only Republican left in the race:

q-poll-nj

A couple of red flags should be noted. First, Hillary holds more of her own party than Trump, even though she’s still in an increasingly bitter battle with Bernie Sanders. Trump doesn’t get to 50% with white voters, and only gets 3% with African-Americans. The gender gap is yuuuge, with Trump at -11 combined. Compare that to Romney’s performance in 2012, when he won 56% of the white vote and held 88% of Republicans — while losing to Obama by 17 points.

Does Trump have time to fix these things? Perhaps, but it’s clear that there is plenty that needs fixing, including the grasp on reality by the Trump campaign. Claims that demographics won’t matter because Trump is already rewriting the Electoral College map have no evidence at all to support them at this stage of the election. Denial won’t change that; Team Trump has to find ways to fix these problems, or else Republicans will lose their big opportunity to change the course of the nation.