In the last weeks before voter ballots land in mailboxes across Colorado, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is making a push to woo voters in the crucial western swing state.
Feeding off polls that have him just nudging ahead of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton this week after trailing here for months, Trump has placed two Front Range stops on his calendar for Monday, arriving for a noon rally in Pueblo and an evening rally in Loveland. He will arrive after visits to Michigan and Pennsylvania and on his way to a Tuesday rally in Prescott Valley, Arizona.
On Thursday, as soon as the planned Trump visits were announced, progressive groups jump-started protest planning.
Past Trump appearances in the state, as elsewhere, have drawn large crowds of supporters and detractors. The groups have clashed, sometimes intensely, in carnival-like settings, where Trump piñatas, giant balloons in the shape of “racist” pigs and enormous paper maché political puppets move back and forth against make-shift cardboard “border walls” covered in Spanish-language peace and unity slogans.
The Pueblo appearance is scheduled to be held at the city’s downtown convention center. The Loveland event will be held at the Budweiser Center in eastern Larimer County.
For many politics watchers, the “Trump bump” in Colorado comes as a surprise, following as it does a first-round debate performance Monday night against Clinton that likely did little to win over Latinos, young people, and suburban women — key Colorado voting blocs that have shaped state campaign strategies of both major political parties in recent years.
“I think, unfortunately, this presidential campaign has been riddled with Trump’s anti-Latino rhetoric, so I think the damage has been done,” said Maria Handley, executive director of Colorado’s Generation Latino-Action. “I don’t think Trump can win over Latinos, and the way he was interrupting Clinton and talking over her in the debate, he is still coming across as a bully. Women see that.”
State Rep. Joe Salazar, D-Thornton, an outspoken advocate for Latino and native American communities, said that, despite his low expectations, he was shocked by Trump’s debate performance. In particular, he lamented Trump’s support for “stop and frisk” policing, which a federal court found unconstitutional in New York for being practiced in a way that targeted ethnic minority populations.
Salazar also laughed in disbelief that Trump touted the fact that he is the first presidential candidate to be endorsed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement — the federal agency that has made headlines for the tactics it has adopted in battling illegal immigration — tactics that include raids on Latino communities and a loosely regulated and expensive detention program.
“When I heard him say proudly that ICE would endorse him, I mean, that made the (admittedly) very short hairs on my head curl,” Salazar said. “And ‘stop and frisk’ is terrible. It destroys communities, erodes trust in the police — and he wants that to be national policy.”
During the debate, Clinton repeatedly pressed Trump on issues of race and gender. She famously called him out in the final minutes for his long record of harsh remarks about how women look, pointing out that he weight-shamed Venezuela-born 1996 Miss Universe Alicia Machado, calling her “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Housekeeping,” a crack at her ethnicity.
Machado’s experience with Trump has become a major national story in the days since the debate, seeming to stand in for powerful themes not fully taken up Monday about women and minorities in the work force and the country’s complex relationship with and its deep economic and cultural ties to Mexico and Latin America more generally.
In fact, analysts pointed out that, over the course of an hour and half, the candidates were never asked to address immigration, a major flashpoint topic in U.S. politics for years and the crux of the Trump candidacy.
In an interview Tuesday with reporters from outlets across the country, including The Rocky Mountain Post, Machado, now a U.S. citizen who lives in Los Angeles, detailed the stormy business relationship she shared with Trump when she won the contest, the first-ever run by the real estate mogul. Machado said that, based on the experience, she was fully dedicated to helping Clinton win the election.
“I’m not a beauty queen anymore,” Machado said. “I’m a mother. I’m a business woman. I’m an actress. I’m an activist. You know, maybe my story can change minds. I know very well what this man is capable of, and that’s why I am fighting to make the community understand. Now more than ever, (American) Latinos need to support the country. We need to return all the beautiful and grand things the U.S. has provided for us (by participating) in these elections.”
But Colorado businessman Floyd Trujillo, a member of state group Hispanics for Trump, said he thought Trump did well in the debate and that Coloradans weren’t buying what he described as a fraying, politically-motivated racism embraced by the Clinton campaign.
“Coloradans are seeing something new in Trump,” he said. “They’re tired of status-quo politicians like Clinton, who comes off like a used car salesman. She’s selling the same old garbage, playing the race card all the time. You know what Latinos care about, what young people and moms care about? They care about education and jobs. We want school choice, so parents can decide what’s best. Clinton is a bureaucrat who will have more bureaucrat solutions.
“I’m looking for someone who will take care of U.S. citizens of color — all U.S. citizens. Trump isn’t a racist,” Trujillo said. “His policies, no one would call them racist if he were running as a Democrat.”