Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus argued that presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump needs to "evolve" in courting Hispanic voters, pushing back on Trump's recent attack on the judge handling the Trump University case.
Priebus predicted to the Washington Examiner on Friday that Trump will undertake an "evolution" in courting Hispanic voters before the November general election despite recent attacks against a judge in the Trump University case, which escalated Friday. Trump told CNN's Jake Tapper that "Mexican heritage" opens U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel to bias against him because he wants to build a wall on the Southern border.
"I've said that I do think Donald Trump understands that his tone and rhetoric is going to have to evolve in regard to how we're communicating to Hispanics across the country," Priebus said during an interview with the Examiner. "I think he gets that. Now, there's a lot of time between now and November, and I think you're going to see an evolution on that particular issue."
Priebus notably pushed back against Trump's bashing of the judge, who was born in Indiana to Mexican immigrants, suggesting Trump shouldn't invoke race.
"I wouldn't invoke race into any sort of attack or commentary," said Priebus, a lawyer by trade. "Now I don't know anything about this judge. I'm not involved in the case. I have not seen the motion practiced or the decisions that are made. When people make comments about judges, it usually depends on their personal knowledge of how a case is being handled. But being a lawyer and an officer of the court, I'm under a different obligation to not criticize judges based on the rules of professional responsibility. Therefore I'm not going to do that."
Trump has called to deport many of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants currently in the United States, even floating a possible "deportation force" to remove them. Priebus himself isn't sure whether Trump will top the 27 percent Hispanic vote Mitt Romney won in 2012, but he expressed surprise with recent polls showing Trump doing better than Romney.
"I was surprised to see in a few polls that I've seen that Trump is actually doing better with Hispanics than Romney, and he's actually doing a lot better with black voters than Romney did," Priebus said when asked if Trump would eclipse the 27 percent mark. "So some of these critiques and criticisms are a little too early to tell.
"I understand that some things would make sense, right? I mean I get that part. But I'm not sure the end of the story is written here on how we're going to do with Hispanic voters in America," Priebus continued. "No. 1, we have a lot of time left, but No. 2, the early polls show that Trump is actually doing better than Mitt Romney did with Hispanic voters."
Priebus was likely pointing to a recent NBC/Survey Monkey poll showing Trump winning just under a third of the Hispanic vote.