CNN Top Republican officials and donors are increasingly worried about the threat Donald Trump's attack on a judge's Mexican heritage could pose to their party's chances in November -- and about the GOP's ability to win Latino votes for many elections to come.
Trump is under fire for repeatedly accusing U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is overseeing a lawsuit involving Trump University, of bias because of his Mexican heritage. Those concerns intensified Sunday after Trump said he would have the same concerns about the impartiality of a Muslim judge.
House and Senate GOP leaders have condemned Trump's remarks about Curiel, while donors have openly worried that losing Latino voters could doom them in key down-ballot races. Other important party figures, including former Speaker Newt Gingrich, are urging Trump to change his combative, confrontational style before it's too late.
Veteran Republican strategist Rick Wilson warned this weekend that GOP leaders who have endorsed Trump "own his politics."
"You own his politics," Wilson wrote in a column for Heatstreet, adding later, "You own the racial animus that started out as a bug, became a feature and is now the defining characteristic of his campaign. You own every crazy, vile chunk of word vomit that spews from his mouth."
The GOP's deepest fear: A Barry Goldwater effect that could last far longer than Trump's political aspirations.
Goldwater, the Arizona senator who was the 1964 GOP nominee and a leader of the conservative movement, alienated a generation of African-American voters by opposing the Civil Rights Act -- opening the door for Democrats to lock in their support for decades. Republicans fret that Trump could similarly leave a stain with Latino voters.
"I am concerned about that," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said Sunday.
"America is changing. When Ronald Reagan was elected, 84% of the electorate was white," McConnell said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "This November, 70% will be. It's a big mistake for our party to write off Latino Americans. And they're an important part of the country and soon to be the largest minority group in the country."
"I hope he'll change his direction on that," said McConnell, who first made the Goldwater comparison last week in an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper.[...]
House Speaker Paul Ryan, just a day after announcing his endorsement of Trump, bashed him on a Wisconsin radio station.
"Look, the comment about the judge, just was out of left field for my mind," Ryan said Friday on WISN in Milwaukee. "It's reasoning I don't relate to, I completely disagree with the thinking behind that."
The criticism from McConnell and Ryan was predictable: Both preside over GOP majorities that are threatened thanks to competitive races in Latino-heavy states like Arizona, Nevada and Florida.
More surprising was the condemnation from Gingrich, who has transparently jockeyed for a spot on Trump's ticket.
"I don't know what Trump's reasoning was, and I don't care," Gingrich told The Washington Post. "His description of the judge in terms of his parentage is completely unacceptable."
Gingrich was even sharper on "Fox News Sunday," calling Trump's remarks "inexcusable."
Trump responded to Gingrich's critique on Monday, telling "Fox and Friends" that the former
House Speaker's comments were "inappropriate."
This is one of the worst mistakes Trump has made," Gingrich said.
Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, the Foreign Relations Committee chairman who has provided key Republican support for Trump's foreign policy stances and is also often named as a prospective vice presidential candidate, rebuked Trump's comments about the judge on ABC's "This Week."
"I think that he's going to have to change," Corker said of Trump's overall behavior and campaign tactics.[...]