Republican senator blasts Trump in leaked phone call

U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) speaks during Supreme Court Justice nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett's Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing for Supreme Court Justice in the Hart Senate Office Building on October 12, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images)

Republican U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse told Nebraska constituents in a telephone town hall meeting that President Donald Trump has “flirted with white supremacists,” mocks Christian evangelicals in private, and “kisses dictators' butts.”

Sasse, who is running for a second term representing the reliably red state, made the comments in response to a question about why he has been willing to publicly criticize a president of his own party. He also criticized Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic and said Trump's family has treated the presidency “like a business opportunity.”

The comments were first reported by the Washington Examiner after it obtained an audio recording of the senator's comments, which has been posted on YouTube. Sasse spokesman James Wegmann said the call occurred Wednesday.

Two other Nebraska Republicans, U.S. Rep. Dan Bacon and state GOP executive director Ryan Hamilton, told the Omaha World-Herald that they disagree with Sasse's characterizations of the president.

“Senator Sasse is entitled to his own opinion,” U.S. Rep. Adrian Smith, another Nebraska Republican, said in a statement. “I appreciate what President Trump has accomplished for our country and will continue to work with him on efforts which help Nebraska.”

Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh declined to comment on Sasse’s comments, the World-Herald said.

Sasse has positioned himself as a conservative willing to criticize Trump, and he is seen as a potential presidential candidate for 2024. His comments Wednesday were in response to a caller who asked about his relationship with the president, adding, “Why do you have to criticize him so much?” Trump carried Nebraska by 25 percentage points in 2016.

The senator said he has worked hard to have a good relationship with Trump and prays for the president regularly “at the breakfast table in our house.” He praised Trump's judicial appointments.

But he said he's had disagreements with Trump that do not involve “mere policy issues,” adding, “I'm not at all apologetic for having fought for my values against his in places where I think his are deficient, not just for a Republican, but for an American.”

Sasse began his list with, “The way he kisses dictators' butts,” and said Trump “hasn't lifted a finger” on behalf of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

“I mean, he and I have a very different foreign policy,” Sasse said. “It isn't just that he fails to lead our allies. It's that we — the United States — regularly sells out our allies under his leadership.”

Sasse said he criticizes Trump for how he treats women and because Trump "spends like a drunken sailor,” saying he criticized Democratic President Barack Obama over spending.

“He mocks evangelicals behind closed doors,” Sasse said. “At the beginning of the COVID crisis, he refused to treat it seriously. For months, he treated it like a news cycle-by-news cycle PR crisis rather than a multi-year public health challenge, which is what it is.”

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Latino voters to be largest minority voting group in 2020 election

The percentage of Latino voters has grown significantly since 2000 when they represented just 7% of voters while Black voters represented 12%.

The 2020 Presidential Election will be the first where Latinos are the largest minority group of eligible voters. Pew Research Institute projects Latinos will represent 13.3% of eligible voters, surpassing Black voters who will make up 13%.

The percentage of Latino voters has grown significantly since 2000 when they represented just 7% of voters while Black voters represented 12%.

California is home to the largest contingent of Latino voters in the U.S. with 7.9 million Latinos aged 18 or older who can vote. In some congressional districts, such as the 51st district, which stretches the length of the U.S.-Mexico border in California, Latinos make up 61% of the population.

“I think it's really important. It's going to influence California in the election this November. So, we want to empower Hispanic people to go out there and vote so we can have the services and help our community,” said Teresa Goodman, a member of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment.

Historically, political experts have found Latino and Hispanic voters are less likely than white voters to cast a ballot.

“They don't have the time because they work. They're providing for their families. They're taking care of their families. Some of them, they don't even have transportation,” said Goodman, who helps residents overcome obstacles to vote. 

Many candidates have done outreach in Latino communities throughout San Diego. While the pandemic response remains top of mind for voters, the issues surrounding it, such as health care, income inequality, and job growth have become a focal point for Latinos.

In San Diego, 62% of people who have tested positive for coronavirus identify as Hispanic or Latino. County Health and Human Services estimates the rate of coronavirus at 2,422.8 per 100,000 Latino/Hispanic residents compared to 716.6 per 100,000 white residents. Latinos also work in industries most likely to be affected by the economic fallout of the pandemic. A study released Thursday by the San Diego Association of Governments found half of Latino workers who lost their jobs in the last six months worked in tourism.

Nationwide, more Latino voters are registered Democrats than Republicans. However, researchers say a candidate’s stance on certain key issues, such as abortion or immigration, could sway voters, especially Independents or those registered as No Party Preference. Cuban-Americans are also twice as likely to identify or lean Republican than Democrat.

“For a lot of Catholic Latino voters, in particular, it’s tough to make those choices because they have a lot of competing cross pressure there,” said Jason Casellas, a professor at the University of Houston, who researches Latino politics. “Republicans shouldn't alleviate and write off the Latino vote. At the same time, Democrats should not take the Latino vote for granted.” 

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Edward James Olmos explains the surprising support for Trump among Latinx voters: 'Latinos are very conservative'

Edward James Olmos

From an immigration crackdown to the coronavirus pandemic, the first term of President Trump’s administration has had a profound — and often adverse — effect on America’s Hispanic population. And yet, Trump’s support among Latinx voters remains surprisingly strong heading into a pivotal election that pits him against former Vice President Joe Biden. Edward James Olmos, for one, isn’t shocked that the race for voters is competitive within his community. “Latinos are very conservative,” the veteran actor, director and activist tells Yahoo Entertainment during a conversation about his new film, The Devil Has a Name. “They hear the dogma that’s being thrown out by [the Republican] side that Joe Biden and the Democrats are socialists and communists. That fear that is put out there on that level is nothing more than that — it’s fear, and they’re putting it there for a reason.” 

Olmos connects Republicans’ fear-inducing messaging to the way Trump and party officials have been fighting to undermine confidence in mail-in voting. “They say, ‘You could cheat,’” he says. “There’s been seven states in the union that have been using write-in ballots for decades, and they’ve never had any problems with it. There are going to be issues with it, and they’re going to be talking about it in a political way, and that’s why [Trump] has got a really conservative judicial system in place.”

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