Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump made a campaign stop in Phoenix. Trump has recently been under fire for his comments about immigration. Chris Herstam, former chief of staff for Governor Fife Symington and former state lawmaker George Ortiz, Maricopa County GOP Party Chairman for LD 19 share their perspectives on Trump’s views and political strategy.
JOSE CARDENAS: Thank you for joining us. Last weekend, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump made a campaign stop in Phoenix to talk about immigration and other topics. Trump has been under fire for his comments about Mexican immigrants. Here to talk about this is George Ortiz who attended the trump event. He is the chairman for legislative district 19 for the Maricopa county GOP party. Chris Herstam; he served as governor Fife Symington's chief of staff and is a former state lawmaker. He now works for the law firm of Lewis Roca Roth Gerber. Thanks for joining us on "Horizonte." I want to start with what Trump actually said. There's been some suggestion that the comments were taken out of context. This is exactly what he says. When Mexico sends his people, they're not sending their best. They're not sending you, not sending you, referring to people in the audience, they're sending people that have lots of problems and they're bringing their problems with them. They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime, they're rapists and some I assume are good people. Those are the comments. Do you still think, George, that they were taken out of context?
GEORGE ORTIZ: Not those. But I think the whole speech itself, they put the parts that were -- the rapists and the killers. And that gets the attention of the people. But he's anti-illegal immigration. Just like I am anti-illegal immigration.
JOSE CARDENAS: But he painted -- and let's focus on illegal immigrants, people who are here illegally anyway. Most by any measure and analysis, most of them are not criminal. At least in the traditional sense that we view. He seemed to say something a lot different than that. That's not troublesome?
GEORGE ORTIZ: I think what he's probably -- who he's referring to the criminals and the rapists, but I don't think he's painting a broad picture. I think he just -- it just sounds like he is but it's not, because I heard him speak and he has a lot of Latinos working for him in his businesses. And I don't think he meant it in a real bad way. I know it sounds bad, but...
JOSE CARDENAS: I want to come back and talk about what kind of feedback you think you've gotten in your role. I should emphasize that you're not here as an official spokesperson for the party but you've been very active. Chris, the reaction has been pretty strong. Mostly by Democrats. You don't hear that much from the Republican candidates. What's your assessment of that?
CHRIS HERSTAM: Well, I think his comments were, first of all, untrue. Second of all they were bigoted. And third of all, very destructive to the Republican party's chances in the 2016 presidential election. I think just as disappointing as his comments has been the reaction from the other Republican presidential candidates with one exception and that is senator Lindsey Graham who has been very strong in criticizing Trump and calling him a demagogue was the word he used and that his comments are destructive and really have no place in the Republican party. Just this end of this week we are seeing Jeb Bush now being more critical of the Trump remarks and perhaps peeling a little bit more to the moderate right faction of the party because frankly new polling comes out almost on a daily basis showing that trump has now jumped ahead of Jeb Bush and is leading the field. He's at 17%, where bush is at 14%. So I think some of the Republican candidates are starting to wake up and realize that Donald trump may not just be a flash in the pan. When you've got billions of dollars at your disposal if he's willing to use a lot of that money, I think his staying power is going to be greater than the Republican party establishment hopes frankly and he will continue to embarrass the Republican party for many, many weeks to come, which is all good news for the Democrats.
JOSE CARDENAS: George, are you concerned about that? I know you don't agree with what Trump said and you don't think he meant it the way it came out but is there any concern about the damage this may cause to the Republican party?
GEORGE ORTIZ: I agree they are sending criminal and rapists, not all of them, but I have to disagree with Chris because I don't think he's damaging the Republican party. He's waking up the Republican party. He's bringing out stuff that wouldn't have been brought up had he not been in the race. They were keeping immigration down. They were keeping it kind of silent. He's brought that up.
CHRIS HERSTAM: The reason why the other candidates were tending not to want to talk about immigration is because they are in real trouble with the fastest-growing segment of the United States population and that's the Hispanic population. By making his comments, he's further insulted the Hispanic population. In the latest ABC news Washington Post poll that came out on Wednesday of this week, the favorability rating amongst the Hispanic population, potential voters in the country, is at 13%. He has an unfavorable rating of 81%. These comments are not helping with the Hispanic population.
GEORGE ORTIZ: The legal Hispanics are backing him. A lot of people that got offended were illegal immigrants. But the Latinos know who Trump is.
JOSE CARDENAS: As we pointed out, you're active in the party. What's the basis for your statement that Latinos who are here legally are supporting trump?
GEORGE ORTIZ: Because they know that there's going to be more jobs, they know he's going to do something in regards to immigration. They know that he's going to do stuff regarding bringing more jobs. And actually probably taking more jobs to Mexico, becoming a good partner with Mexico, even though it doesn't sound like it but that has to be done.
JOSE CARDENAS: Have you seen any polls or are you getting comments from significant numbers of Latinos saying that they're supporting Trump?
GEORGE ORTIZ: I have a lot of Latino friends that are in the GOP and out of the GOP that are following Trump, that like what they heard because they were at the convention and they liked hearing it from him, hearing his full speech.
JOSE CARDENAS: And then do you think Lindsey Graham, and now, Jeb Bush were wrong to be critical of Donald Trump?
GEORGE ORTIZ: Well, I don't think Lindsey Graham really -- he's a candidate but I don't think he's going to be -- he'll probably be in the top 10 but I'm not sure. Jeb Bush is starting to realize that he has to take the immigration seriously. That topic.
JOSE CARDENAS: Now, there are impacts, though, because they've been quoted in the paper, prominent Hispanic Republicans who think Trump is hurting the party and the outreach efforts. I take it you disagree?
GEORGE ORTIZ: I think, in fact, Ted Cruz met with Trump and agrees with Trump. Marco Rubio, he may have said something in regards to that, I haven't heard that, but I think there's been a couple of the candidates that are starting to take it seriously.
JOSE CARDENAS: I was referring more broadly than that. Chris, how significant do you think the damage can be, because the elections are more than a year off. Trump may have more staying power than people originally thought but I don't think most people think he will come out and be the candidate.
CHRIS HERSTAM: I think really any knowledgeable political scientist that you talk to will tell you that the biggest problem for the Republican party is that they are relying on an aging white base and unless they can reach out to the growing minority populations in this country, they will never win the presidency again. Trump's comments which are insulting to Hispanics are just going to further make it more difficult for the Republican party to gain Hispanic votes. They're going to have to continue to rely on that white population in 2016. Romney had to rely on it, and we saw what happened. I mean, the trend is now here. The demographics are changing dramatically in this country. And the Republican party's attempt for outreach to the Hispanic population is now going to be a disaster as a result of the insulting comments by Donald Trump.
GEORGE ORTIZ: I have to disagree. I think he's going to get more popular as time goes by when Latinos see his message, and I think hopefully, they'll get away from the news media. He was rightly -- saying they tell a lot of lies only because they put the inflammatory stuff out.
JOSE CARDENAS: George, Donald Trump did say that he is going to win the Hispanic vote.
GEORGE ORTIZ: And I believe it. I believe it 100%.
JOSE CARDENAS: You yourself we talked off-camera and you said you had been leaning towards Jeb Bush, and now, you're supporting Trump? I want to emphasize as I did earlier that you're not an official spokesperson for the party. But why? Why Trump over bush? Is it the immigration issue?
GEORGE ORTIZ: I like Jeb Bush, I followed the bushes, both president bushes and I thought they were great presidents and Jeb Bush, I've been following him for several years. And I was hoping he would enter the race and he did. And I loved his speech. But I think he's weak on certain things. He's weak on foreign policy. He stumbled. Now, he's kind of, you know, getting his feet back on that but on immigration, he speaks good Spanish and he's married to a Mexican American.
JOSE CARDENAS: Do you think that hurts him with the Republican Hispanics that you were talking about?
GEORGE ORTIZ: His foreign policy. Until he gets strong with that. His policy on immigration, he's got to come out and articulate it more. But I went in there with an open mind to the convention and so did hundreds of people that I know that were there and I'm talking about people in the party that I've known for years. And they were just mesmerized by Donald Trump. I think he's got something. And I'm willing to listen.
JOSE CARDENAS: We're almost out of time. Chris, just about 30 seconds. Is Trump going to be the Republican candidate, and even if he's not, is there a credible third party candidacy by him?
CHRIS HERSTAM: Donald Trump is an egomaniac, he's proud to be richer than everybody else, smarter than everybody else and he has an answer for every question. And you never know what an egomaniac with 10 billion dollars is going to do. He isn't going to win the Republican nomination. He could very well decide if he's having a good time to take his reality TV campaign which he's good at and run as an independent candidate which once again would siphon off some Republican votes like George and make it easier for the Democrats to win.
JOSE CARDENAS: Well, on that note we're going to have to end our interview. Thank you both for joining us this evening on "Horizonte" to talk about it. It's a lot to talk about. Thank you so much.
Chris Herstam:Former Chief of Staff for Governor Fife Symington, Former State lawmaker;
George Ortiz:Maricopa County GOP Party Chairman for LD19