Latino voter surge may cost Donald Trump the election

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Donald Trump opened his White House bid by stoking fears of Mexicans flooding the border. But in the end, it may be a Latino voter surge that walls him out.

In states crucial to Trump's win, Hispanics have had an outsized presence at the polls, waiting out long lines in Florida, Nevada, Arizona, North Carolina and other states.

In the crucial battleground state of Florida, 565,000 Latinos had voted early, in person, a 100 percent increase over 2012, the Miami Herald reported. The total rises to 911,000 with absentee ballots.

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Trump supporters are blocking the doors and calling them racial slurs. This isn't a third party "telephone game" rumor. This is people 2/x
@acherry13 Delaware online is reporting an incident regarding a trump supporter with a gun at a polling place https://t.co/xMKcEQj5Cm
BREAKING: @DanNBC6 reports 2 election clerks fired and told to leave the property after dispute over poll watchers.… https://t.co/TQtaf7pLtb
One of @realDonaldTrump 's volunteer "observers" outside a Columbus polling place this morning https://t.co/kqL9m0nNsJ
Wow. Just got this screengrab from a friend. Jefferson Riley, the Republican mayor of Mansfield, Georgia trying to… https://t.co/q8mu8v0ytB
In Philadelphia tailing a pastor's bus that's bussing people to the polls. #VeritasIsEverywhere & we will catch you… https://t.co/oBdATCu9lf
#NEW #Vote2016 DalCo says an election judge in Garland was jumped on her way to the polls today; robbed & assaulted. @CBSDFW
Man with "FAGGOTS VOTE DEM" sign + handgun detained after moving closer to polls in Spring Tx @HoustonChron #Houvote https://t.co/jlroxheZwP
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More important, more than one third of those early votes in the Sunshine State were cast by Latinos who had not voted in 2012. The turnout appears to favor Clinton, with high turnout rates in Democratic counties.

The best visual evidence of a potential Latino surge came last week when early voting hours had to be extended in Nevada because so many people, largely Latinos, were in line at Cardenas grocery store in Las Vegas.

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This led Nevada political analyst Jon Ralston, an expert in the state's politics, to warn the GOP in a tweet that it was time to panic and to give his own twist to Trump's opening salvo on Mexicans.

Not to be overlooked is the fact that so many Latinos are voting early at all.

"Latinos are overwhelmingly 'day of' voters. They are a voting bloc that decides late and decisively and it's on Election Day when you see (these) voters start to show up," said Mike Madrid, a GOP strategist and principal at California based Grassroots Lab.

But not this year.

A Telemundo/NALEO tracking poll finds that half of Latino registered voters are expected to have cast their ballots before Election Day. That almost matches the total share of early and Election Day voting in 2008 as well as in 2012.

The 'Trump Factor?'

Exactly how the perennially underperforming Latino electorate was mobilized in 2016 and who did it best will be dissected for days after the election. But for now, everyone agrees on a key mobilizing factor: "This has everything to do with Donald Trump," said Madrid.

The GOP strategist noted that even California has seen increased Latino early voting, something which had continuously eluded the state. "We've been making it easier to vote for 20 years and turnout had been going down."

It's not just the number of Latinos going to the polls which has increased, but a greater share of the Hispanic electorate, according to Gary Segura, a Clinton pollster. This means that the increased voting is not just a result of the growing Latino population but of increased participation.

Trump launched his campaign with a clear message on who was in his sights.

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NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 8: Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's campaign logo is viewed under a glass ceiling ahead of her election night event at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, November 8, 2016 in New York City. Both Clinton and Republican presidential candidate Hillary Clinton are holding their election night events in New York City on Tuesday night. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Workers prepare the stage for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's election night event at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York on November 7, 2016. / AFP / Jewel SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
Workers prepare the United States map shaped stage for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's election night event at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York on November 8, 2016. Eager voters crowded into polling stations to choose a new US president Tuesday after a wild and bitter contest between the billionaire populist Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, the Democrat seeking to become the first woman to win the White House. / AFP / Jewel SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 8: A view of the media riser ahead of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's election night event at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, November 8, 2016 in New York City. Both Clinton and Republican presidential candidate Hillary Clinton are holding their election night events in New York City on Tuesday night. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Members of the media stand in the lobby of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center ahead of Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's election night rally in New York, New York November 8, 2016. REUTERS/Mark Kauzlarich
John Podesta, campaign chairman for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, walks through the Jacob Javits Center in New York, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016, before Clinton's election night rally. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
People are held near a lobby as Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton arrives at the Peninsula Hotel prior to an election night party at the Javits Center November 8, 2016 in New York, New York. / AFP / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 08: People wait for voting results at Democratic presidential nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's election night event at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center November 8, 2016 in New York City. Clinton is running against Republican nominee, Donald J. Trump to be the 45th President of the United States. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
A screen displaying the election results is seen over the stage that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton will speak later during election night at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York on November 8, 2016. / AFP / Jewel SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
Hillary Clinton supporters are seen at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York on November 8, 2016 where Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's election night event is held. Eager voters crowded into polling stations to choose a new US president Tuesday after a wild and bitter contest between the billionaire populist Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, the Democrat seeking to become the first woman to win the White House. / AFP / Robyn Beck (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
A supporter of Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton reacts at the election night rally the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York, U.S., November 8, 2016. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
Marvin DeLeon (L) of Washington County, NY, cries as he stands in the overflow crowd for Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's election night rally at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York, U.S. November 8, 2016. REUTERS/Mark Kauzlarich
A supporter of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton reacts during election night at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York on November 8, 2016. / AFP / Jewel SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 09: People react to the voting results at Democratic presidential nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's election night event at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center November 9, 2016 in New York City. Clinton is running against Republican nominee, Donald J. Trump to be the 45th President of the United States. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Attendees react during an election night party for 2016 Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton at the Javits Center in New York, U.S., on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. Fifty-one percent of voters nationally were bothered a lot by Republican Donald Trump's treatment of women, while Clinton's use of private e-mail while secretary of state was troubling to 44 percent, according to preliminary exit polling as voting neared a close in some states. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Attendees embrace during an election night party for 2016 Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton at the Javits Center in New York, U.S., on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. Fifty-one percent of voters nationally were bothered a lot by Republican Donald Trump's treatment of women, while Clinton's use of private e-mail while secretary of state was troubling to 44 percent, according to preliminary exit polling as voting neared a close in some states. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 08: People watch voting result at Democratic presidential nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's election night event at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center November 8, 2016 in New York City. Clinton is running against Republican nominee, Donald J. Trump to be the 45th President of the United States. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
A woman watches election results during Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's election night rally in the Jacob Javits Center glass enclosed lobby in New York, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Supporters react to election results during Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's election night rally in the Jacob Javits Center glass enclosed lobby in New York, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
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"When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending the best. They're not sending you, they're sending people that have lots of problems and they're bringing those problems," Trump said in his speech at Trump Tower in New York last June.

"They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime. They're rapists and some, I assume, are good people, but I speak to border guards and they're telling us what we're getting."

Trump pledged to build a wall up and down the U.S.-Mexico border and make Mexico pay for it. Before his supporters started yelling "Lock Her Up" about Hillary Clinton, their chant of choice was "Build The Wall."

Trump touted throughout his campaign that Hispanics "love me" and that his argument was against illegal immigration.

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But beyond Mexicans, most Latinos did not see it as criticism about immigration policy but criticism about them. "It's the perception that he is anti-us," Edwin Meléndez, a Puerto Rican scholar, told NBC News. "I think any other [Republican] candidate would have split the vote a different way."

Latino groups and the Clinton campaign harnessed the visceral reaction to Trump's incendiary rhetoric and ran with it.

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"I voted" stickers are on display for voters in the U.S. presidential election at Grace Episcopal Church in The Plains, Virginia, U.S., November 8, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Ohio voting stickers for early voters sit on a table at the Fairfield County Board of Elections Office in Lancaster, Ohio, U.S., on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016. Democrats are battling in almost a dozen close races to pick up enough seats to take over the chamber that Republicans now govern with a four-seat majority, while Republicans argue they should be kept in control there as a check on Clinton should the Democrat be elected president. Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 08: A voter is seen outside the polls after casting their ballot in the national election on November 8, 2016 in New York, United States. (Photo by Noam Galai/WireImage)
PROVO, UT - NOVEMBER 08: A couple shows off their 'I Voted' sticker as they leave Wasatch Elementary school after casting their ballot in the presidential election on November 8, 2016 in Provo, Utah. Americans across the nation make their choice for the next president of the United States today. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 26: A Las Vegas Strip-themed 'I Voted' sticker is displayed at an early voting site at the Meadows Mall on October 26, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Voters in Clark County are voting early at a record pace this year ahead of the November 8 general election. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
'I voted' stickers, given to those who vote, are seen November 8, 2016, at Colin Powwell Elementary School, in Centreville, Virginia. Polling stations opened Tuesday as the first ballots were cast in the long-awaited election pitting Hillary Clinton against Donald Trump. / AFP / PAUL J. RICHARDS (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
Ranelle Taylor points to her 'I Voted' sticker after voting in the US presidential election at Santa Monica City Hall on November 8, 2016 in Santa Monica, California. America's future hung in the balance Tuesday as millions of eager voters cast ballots to elect Democrat Hillary Clinton as their first woman president, or hand power to the billionaire populist Donald Trump. / AFP / Frederic J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, USA - November 8: 'I Voted' stickers wait to be handed to citizens at Loudon County High School after they cast their ballots in the 2016 Presidential Elections in Leesburg, Va., USA on November 8, 2016. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Seth Schaecher, a deputy election official, displays stickers that he gives to voters, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016, at a polling place in Exeter, N.H. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Iris Pettigrew carries voting stickers for voters after they cast their ballots, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Precinct worker Carolyn Scott holds a voter sticker at the Bermuda precinct during the U.S presidential election in Dillon, South Carolina, November 8, 2016. REUTERS/Randall Hill
A poll worker hands out an "I voted" sticker to a voter during the U.S. presidential election at Potomac Middle School in Dumfries, Virginia, U.S., November 8, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
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Clinton's campaign worked Latino cultural touchstones to connect with voters, including women's tamale parties with Trump piñatas, Spanglish campaign ads aimed at "bilennials" and campaign events with Dreamers, the young immigrants without permanent legal status in the U.S.

In Miami, Clinton supporters handed out pastelitos, or Cuban pastries, to early voters and coaxed Cuban Americans, who historically have voted Republican, to go Democrat this year.

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Latino entertainers like JLo and Marc Anthony, the Mexican group Maná and traditional crooners like Vicente Fernandez exhorted the community to vote against someone who "offended" the community, as Fernandez sang in a traditional "corrido."

And remarks by Trump and his surrogates — taco trucks on every corner, #badhombres, #ThatMexicanThing, Again — provided additional fuel against the Republican nominee.

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"A cornerstone of Latino culture is to show respect and act with dignity, and so the incendiary and downright un-American things Donald Trump said of many U.S. citizens - not just Latinos - is one aspect of what's fueled the increase of the Latino electorate, whether they be seasoned, young, or new voters," said Lorena Chambers, a Democratic strategist who has been working with Priorities USA, a Clinton supporting PAC, on political ads to reach Latino voters.

This year marked a shift in spending on Latino mobilization: Money moved from non-profit, non-partisan groups to organizations that could name candidates and where they stand on issues.

The Center for Community Change Action were part of a $15 million effort to turn out registered Latino voters as well as immigrant voters in Colorado, Florida and Nevada.

Kica Matos, the center's director of immigrant rights and social justice, said that Trump's rhetoric and policies spurred the group to launch a partisan campaign to endorse progressive candidates.

In talking with prospective Latino voters, canvassers asked what issues were important to them and then told them which candidates stood with them.

"My gut tells me in many ways Trump crystallized the issues," Matos said.

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