Where is the Donald Trump that Criticized Self-Deportation?

Does Donald Trump really want to win this presidential election? It’s a fair question, considering how hard he is working to alienate one of the fastest growing and significant voting blocs in the country: Latinos. Rather than looking to expand his base, Trump continues to offend a Latino community that might otherwise consider voting for a candidate that presented himself as a viable alternative to a third Obama term.

With several polls showing that Latino voters rank the economy as their top concern, Trump could make a compelling case against the Obama administration’s failures while proposing substantive policies to boost the growth and create more high paying jobs for all Americans — including nearly 55 million Latinos.

Instead, Trump has spent the past week justifying his attacks on the Mexican heritage of Gonzalo Curiel, the U.S. district court judge presiding over the civil lawsuit against Trump University. Trump’s attacks on Curiel are completely out of line because his race and ethnicity are irrelevant.

Trump wasn’t always so politically tone-deaf. In 2012, shortly after Republicans lost yet another presidential election, he told Ronald Kessler of NewsMax: “Republicans didn’t have anything going for them with respect to Latinos and with respect to Asians.”

“The Democrats didn’t have a policy for dealing with illegal immigrants, but what they did have going for them is they weren’t mean-spirited about it,” Trump said. “They didn’t know what the policy was, but what they were is they were kind.”

In that same interview, Trump criticized GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s proposal that undocumented immigrants could leave the country through a policy of attrition, or “self-deportation.”

If Trump wants to win this presidential contest, he needs to listen to the Trump of 2012

“He had a crazy policy of self deportation which was maniacal,” Trump said. “It sounded as bad as it was, and he lost all of the Latino vote,” he added. “He lost the Asian vote. He lost everybody who is inspired to come into this country.”

The Donald Trump of 2012 was spot on. Republicans lost the Hispanic vote that year not because Democrats had a better immigration policy, but rather as a result of poor messaging. As a successful businessman, the Trump of 2012 must have understood that the reason why Republicans fell short in winning the presidential election is that they let Democrats portray them as the anti-immigrant party. That made it almost impossible for the party of Lincoln to take its message of freedom, limited government and personal responsibility to an audience that, in Trump’s words, is “everybody who is inspired to come to this country.”

If Trump wants to win this presidential contest, he needs to listen to the Trump of 2012. That Trump at least understood the importance of laying out an inclusive and aspirational message to appeal to a broad electorate. Instead of deriding opponents based on their race and ethnicity and blaming immigrants for a weak economy, the Trump of 2016 needs to spend the remaining months of the presidential campaign pointing out the Obama administration’s many failures — particularly when it comes to economic expansion and creating new jobs.

The Democrats are about to nominate a candidate with high unfavorable ratings that few Americans trust. Trump can win this election if he exercises some self-discipline. Does he want to?

Israel Ortega is a Senior Writer for Opportunity Lives. You can follow him on Twitter:@IzzyOrtega.