Before I get into the crux of this article, I want to provide some background that I think will make a lot of things clear about why Trump has done some of the things he has done. After his comments back in the 2004-2005 time-frame that the Iraq war was a disaster, I thought he might run for President as a Democrat. Back then, Trump was a moderate who, in my opinion, could have chosen to run for either party.
The first mistake Trump made in trying to run for President was to decide to run as a Republican. I can imagine some of the reasons why and discussions had by his team as that decision was made, but that's mostly supposition on my part and immaterial. The result of deciding to run as a Republican meant that he had to try to appeal to Republican grassroots.
That would have posed a serious problem for any political team trying to solve the obstacles in his way to getting the nomination. As Trump's GOP primary opponents have said, he had expressed support for many Liberal positions in the past. If he reversed positions on those things he would immediately be seen as non-genuine and a hypocrite. Those perceptions are the exact opposite of those that team Trump was trying to create. His teams goals were to develop positions that Trump could adopt that would both signal to Conservative grass roots that he was one of them and deserved their support and would also not conflict with anything he had said previously.
It was clear to me with the birther position Trump took back during the run-up to the 2012 primary that this was a first attempt to reintroduce himself to Conservative grassroots as someone they should consider supporting. See my article on that here: TRUMP'S BIRTHER STRATEGY MAKES SENSE IF YOU UNDERSTAND ITS PURPOSE
The second position that Trump's team had him adopt was that of being radically against undocumented immigrants having a path to citizenship, and the creation of the wall on the border with Mexico.
Both the birther and anti-immigration positions fulfilled the requirements of endearing him to the Republican base and not putting him in danger of appearing to be a flip-flopper or someone willing to say anything to be elected. In fact regarding the latter, it did the exact opposite. It helped foster the impression that Trump says what he means and doesn't care about being politically correct. This impression has stuck with Trump throughout the Republican primary process and has him on the verge of becoming the presumptive Republican nominee.
The problem with some of the things that Trump said regarding immigration was that they were extremely offensive to Latinos. Trump claims that the media unfairly characterized his statements but I am not sure you can say that. Huffington Post did a good job back in August of capturing, to that point, the Nine Most Outrageous things Donald Trump has said about Latinos and that includes such gems as:
and lest you think Trump's negative statements and opinion was just about Mexicans and not other Latinos:
Right now if you look to the general election polls describing the results of a potential Trump vs Hillary race, most have it close and some even have Trump winning. http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2016/president/us/general_election_trump_vs_clinton-5491.html I wouldn't pay too much attention to general election polls at this time. As Nate Silver said, A year out ignore general election polls . Polls at this point had Clinton losing badly in 1992 and had Carter beating Reagan in 1980. General election polls don't start meaning something until the summer and even then don't start to completely shake out until early to mid September.
What does give you a hint right now about how the election might turn out is to look at individual demographic groups and use the political parties and past campaigns demographic targets to tell you where someone might have an edge and where someone might have problems.
Past Republican Presidential campaigns have said that their target is to get at or close to 40% of the Latino vote to win the general election. After Mitt Romney's loss in 2012, some of which was believed to be because of his poor showing with Latinos (Romney lost the Latino vote to President Obama by 71%-27%), Republican politicians and pundits for several months afterwards were saying how they needed a new approach toward Latinos and immigration and were willing to change on both counts. One of my favorite statements along these lines was Sean Hannity's:
This was said by Sean one or two days after Mitt Romney's election loss in 2012.
Many Republican strategists came to the same conclusion as Hannity and realized that continuing to anger the Latino community created an impossible situation for them when it came to winning national elections. That is one of the reasons for why the Republican establishment has been and is still searching for a way to stop Trump from winning the nomination. That 40% number is in their head and they are concerned about it and it turns out they have good reason.
A recent Washington Post-Univision poll of Latino voters shows that in a general election match-up, Latinos would vote 72% for Hillary and 16% for Trump. See http://apps.washingtonpost.com/g/page/national/washington-post-univision-news-national-survey-of-hispanic-voters/1970/
Even more telling in that poll is that 81% of Latinos have a very unfavorable or somewhat unfavorable opinion of Trump and only 17% have a very favorable or somewhat favorable opinion of Trump. Conversely, 67% of Latinos have a very favorable or somewhat favorable opinion of Hillary Clinton while only 31% have a very unfavorable or somewhat unfavorable opinion of her.