Trump’s administration built on existing Republican support by relentlessly courting Latinos since 2017, focusing on his economic policies and support for religious freedom. Even as Trump made family separation and the border wall central parts of his platform, the White House engaged Latino business owners early and often. Trump lowered taxes, slashed financial regulations, and named a Latina Small Business Administration administrator, Jovita Carranza, who helped Latino business owners. He also claimed credit in speeches for low unemployment numbers, rising rates of homeownership, and growing family incomes for Latinos, trends that started during the Barack Obama years.

While Democrats focused on Trump’s slanders, they missed a bigger picture. Take, for example, the week in early July when Goya CEO Robert Unanue’s praise of Trump resulted in calls to boycott Goya products. That week as a whole was about Trump’s relentless recruitment of Latino voters—the visit by Mexico’s president to celebrate the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement; the announcement of the Hispanic Prosperity Initiative, which promised more support for Latino business owners, charter schools, and Hispanic-serving institutions; and the meeting with Southcom, a joint military command based in Florida that’s responsible for operations in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean, during which the president promised to halt the flow of drugs from Latin America.

Trump also successfully exploited the economic frustrations of many Latinos, young and old. He clearly stated that he had answers to their problems, would help them find jobs, and would grow the economy. This rhetoric resonated with those in South Texas, a heavily Mexican American, traditionally Democratic area of the state with high rates of poverty, poor educational outcomes, and health disparities, including a particularly high rate of COVID-19 infection and mortality.