LAS VEGAS — Shuffling jeans on the clothing rack in her small store in the Latino Market, Christy Rosales says she hopes Trump returns to office.
The 40-year-old Colombia native complains that sales at her store have improved since COVID, but not to the levels they were before the pandemic.
“You can talk to a lot of store owners here who have been here two or three years,” he said in Spanish. “And they will say their numbers have declined this year.”
She understands it’s not the most popular scene in East Las Vegas, where hearing Spanish is as common as English.
But she says the economy’s most direct impact is on her family.
Nevada has had a slower economic recovery than the rest of the country due to its reliance on the hospitality and tourism industries. And Latinos have suffered the brunt of this, due to the large number employed in the service sector.
Latinos, who make up 20 percent of voters in Nevada, have long been considered a key constituency for Democrats, but Republicans sense an opportunity here where economic concerns are front and center.
So, former President Donald Trump is courting Latino voters in this key battleground state, while also warning about an invasion at the southern border.
Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images
Jesus Marquez, a local political consultant who has advised several state Republicans, says Trump’s focus on working-class Americans resonates with working-class Latinos in Las Vegas and across Nevada.
He points to polling that shows cost of living, the economy, jobs and health care are the most important issues to the community.
“Actually, immigration comes in seventh or sixth. It’s right around there,” he said.
At a recent rally in East Las Vegas, Trump claimed to have defeated President Biden.
And he pushed back on the idea that his tough language about the border turned off Latino voters.
“Till date no one has been able to explain why this open wound is good for our country and also politically. Why is it politically good?” He said. “First of all, with the Hispanic vote, we’re doing better than the Democrat Party now. So I think that’s good for us.”
Surveys of Latino voters, such as a recent USA TODAY/Suffolk University poll, show Trump ahead of Biden 39% to 34%.
And while many Latinos have raised concerns about Trump’s proposed border policies, others welcome stronger enforcement.
Kilson Hidalgo, a 47-year-old glass worker originally from the Dominican Republic, says Latinos here don’t like to talk about it.
“I’m an immigrant too,” he said. “But you have to come the right way. You know what’s being said. Some people don’t want to see the way, but that’s the way it is. You have to come legally.”
Local Republican strategist Jeremy Hughes says most local data shows that Latino voters are more open than ever to supporting Republicans.
“The message is simple,” he said. “Was your situation better four years ago than it is now?”
But anyone who thinks this will be a walk in the park for Republicans would be wrong.
For example, in 2022, state Republicans tried to capitalize on these same trends.
He had a major victory against current Governor Joe Lombardo. But, in the same election, he was defeated when he targeted Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, who was seen as the most vulnerable incumbent in that election.
But Luis Manuel Gama Mojica says his situation was better four years ago. Gama Mojica helps manage a taco restaurant owned by his daughter.
He says he’s less concerned about Trump’s fiery rhetoric about immigrants and more concerned about the consequences.
And, like Rosales and Hidalgo, he’s thinking a lot about the economy.
“The economy is most important,” he said in Spanish. “It drives business forward and creates opportunities.”
And he said this has the most direct impact on his family and therefore his vote.