How To Buy A Car: Start With Some Patience

Buying a car is a big expense - but it doesn't have to be a stressful one.

Alija/Getty Images

By my count I have helped some 58 friends (including many colleagues in public radio) buy a car. That’s sort of funny, considering I didn’t buy a car until I was 37 years old and began reporting on the auto industry for NPR.

On Saturdays over the last few years, I have gotten phone calls from friends at car dealerships asking for advice. It’s no small financial matter, when the average cost of a new car is roughly $33,000.

So if you are reading this while in a car dealership, do what I tell all my friends: Stand up! Leave the dealership! Do not buy a car today!


And before you return, take a look at these tips I’ve gathered from industry experts and public radio friends.

Do Your Homework

“I knew exactly what I wanted,” Muthoni Muturi, NPR editor

Your father may have always loved Hondas, and your grandmother may have always bought Crown Victorias.

But it’s my job to keep up with the car companies, and I have a hard time keeping track of what’s good or bad. (And it’s not your father’s Oldsmobile, because they don’t make Oldsmobiles anymore.)

“Information is king,” says Jonathan Collegio of the National Automobile Dealers Association, or NADA.

“Consumers should do as much homework as possible,” he says, and “have a sense of the market.”

They shouldn’t be afraid to go to a dealership, he says, but they should come prepared.

Start with data: Consumer Reports has a list of the best and worst cars. Car company rankings change all the time, and you might be surprised at what you learn — for instance, that Audi, Subaru, Mazda and Buick all rate higher than Honda for reliability.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, or IIHS, compiles safety data by car and make.

Both sites promise unbiased data-driven information about car reliability and safety.

In addition, there are for-profit sites that help with reviews and pricing of cars. Here are just a few:,, Kelley Blue Book,,, Costco Auto and NADA Guides.

Michelle Singletary, a personal finance columnist with The Washington Post, warns that consumers should not “set one toe in the dealership” before doing their homework.

Do A Thorough Test Drive

“Don’t be satisfied with going around the block,” Karen Grigsby Bates, NPR correspondent

Five or 10 years ago when you bought your last car you were that much younger. Your body, your needs and your eyesight have changed. That’s why a test drive is so important.

Drive the car in the conditions you would use it in — at night on a dark road, for instance, so you can test the lights and brightness of interior lamps.

Rebecca Lindland, a senior analyst with Kelley Blue Book, points out that a test drive can help with dealing with family members who have disabilities.

She also recommends bringing car seats and pet carriers with you. And she reminds shorter drivers to pay attention to sightlines and especially the A-pillar (which is the beam on the windshield to the left of the driver); it can obscure vision around curves.

She also advises would-be buyers to pay attention to something known as the H-point.

“When you stand next to the car with the door open, look at how high the top of the seat is. That’s called the H-point — where the top of the seat is,” she says.

Where the H-point falls will give you a sense of ease of entry. If the top of a seat hits below your knees, for instance, you’ll have to stoop lower to get into the car. If the H-point hits around mid-thigh, it will be was easier to get in and out.

The key is to feel comfortable in the vehicle.

Keep Your Emotions In Check

“A car is not an impulse purchase,” Sonari Glinton, NPR business correspondent

At its most basic, purchasing a car is a financial decision that’s tied with emotion, and dealers will use tactics that play on your emotions.

I would suggest separating the different decisions.

Test-drive on one day. Figure out financing on another. Determine the best dealer on yet another.

“Remember, their job is to sell you a car today,” says Jack Nerad, executive editorial director and executive market analyst with Kelley Blue Book and author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Buying or Leasing a Car.

“If you don’t like the experience of how they are treating you, leave,” Nerad advises. “You have all the power. Use it. Walk out the door.”

Dealers often will make you feel like the deal you’re getting is scarce, says Camelia Kuhnen, a neuroeconomist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. That will make you feel like you need to buy a car even if it’s against your best judgment.

“You can easily survive without that particular car, at this particular dealership,” she says.

Bringing a friend who will be dispassionate about the whole process and help advocate on your behalf is a good idea, Kuhnen adds.

Shop Around For Financing, Too

“I was prepared to walk out and did. It was only a couple hundred dollars difference but I got the deal I wanted,” Greg Dixon, NPR producer for All Things Considered

“If you can’t pay cash for it, you need to be asking yourself why [you’re] buying this car,” says Singletary, the personal finance columnist. She suggests checking with your local bank or credit union before you go the dealership.

“Negotiate purchase price not the monthly payment,” says Lindland of Kelley Blue Book. “You can easily spend hundreds, even thousands of extra dollars by not paying attention to terms.”

One final tip from Lindland: Avoid car terms that are over 60 months.

“Longer term loans help keep monthly payments low,” says Melinda Zabritski with Experian, the credit agency.

But consumers should be very careful, she says, because “it’s easy to find yourself upside down … dealing with negative equity should they choose to trade it in after only a few years.”

Collegio of NADA says “it’s good to shop around.” He advises that you get a rate from your local bank — the dealer will be able to match or meet it.

His organization has a guide for auto financing at

A Few More Things To Consider

Ask for incentives. Dealers and carmakers often offer cash incentives, preferable loan or lease terms, gifts and even coupons to encourage consumers to buy cars. Check the manufacturer’s website for incentives, and be sure to ask your salesperson.

The last weekend of the month is when dealers have the biggest incentive to sell.

If you’re interested in leasing, negotiate the purchase price of the car first.

Deal with the trade-in separately, advises Singletary.

Buy less car than you need, and think used (often referred to as pre-owned) to get the best deal.

Once you decide on the car, stick with the decision.

“Don’t settle on color,” warns Bates, who’s a member of NPR’s Code Switch team. “Every time I go outside and see that red car, it makes me happy.”

When you walk to your car, it should make you happy. And don’t forget: You don’t have to buy a car today.

JOIN NPR’S ‘YOUR MONEY AND YOUR LIFE’ FACEBOOK GROUP, an online community featuring stories from some of the best investors and financial experts on the planet along with crowdsourced wisdom curated and overseen by NPR reporters and editors.

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Sturgill Simpson Sings A Surreal Lullaby In 'Breakers Roar'

May 5, 20166:29 PM ET

When outsider-country singer Sturgill Simpson released his third album, A Sailor’s Guide To Earth, in the beginning of April, he told NPR how the entire work serves as a letter to his infant son. On the record’s second track, “Breakers Roar,” the letter transforms into a sweet lullaby as Simpson sends comfort to his little one.

Like the other two videos made for A Sailor’s Guide To Earth — “Brace For Impact (Live A Little)” and “In Bloom” — this one presents a surrealist take on the song’s narrative. The video begins with a surfer riding out into the ocean before a mighty wave capsizes him and drags him under the surface. We then switch between shots of Simpson, sitting on a stool and observing/commenting on the video’s events, and the slowly drowning surfer. As he sinks slowly to the depths, we see images of crashed cars, cutlery, a stroller and an endless sea-floor of broken hearts. As the surfer wakes on the shore, Simpson offers up some parting advice: “Bone breaks and heals / Oh, but heartaches can kill / From the inside, so it seems / Oh, I’m telling you, it’s all a dream / It’s all a dream.”

Sturgill Simpson’s third album, A Sailor’s Guide To Earth, is out now on Atlantic Records.

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FBI Probe Of Clinton Email Use Advances With Aides' Interviews

Federal investigators have interviewed Huma Abedin and other top Hillary Clinton aides as part of an ongoing investigation into the candidate's use of a private email server as secretary of state.

Federal investigators have interviewed Huma Abedin and other top Hillary Clinton aides as part of an ongoing investigation into the candidate’s use of a private email server as secretary of state. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Federal investigators have interviewed top aides to Hillary Clinton about her use of a private email server, the latest advance in an ongoing investigation into whether her email practices as secretary of state may have compromised classified information, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The interviews, of close aides including Huma Abedin, have been conducted by FBI agents, lawyers from the Justice Department’s National Security division, and prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Alexandria, Va.

There’s no sign yet that a federal grand jury has been convened in the case, and Clinton herself has not yet been interviewed. Clinton, who’s running for the Democratic presidential nomination, says she is cooperating with the probe.

“From the start, Hillary Clinton has offered to answer any questions that would help the Justice Department complete its review, and we hope and expect that anyone else who is asked would do the same,” Clinton’s press secretary Brian Fallon said. “We are confident the review will conclude that nothing inappropriate took place.”

The attorney general and the FBI director have offered no deadline for their review.

The interviews with Clinton aides were first reported by CNN.

In an interview with NPR last week, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said, “our goal is to be thorough because we want to make sure that in fact we have looked at everything we need to look at before we come to any final conclusions, whichever way.”

The federal investigation continues, even as dozens of civil lawsuits involving open records laws move their own way through the courts.

Earlier this week, U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan paved the way for the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch to depose Clinton aides Abedin, Cheryl Mills, and Bryan Pagliano over the next two months.

The judge ruled that “it may be necessary” for the watchdog group to question Clinton herself, but it will need court permission to proceed.

Those interviews will happen at a sensitive time, in the run-up to the Democratic National Convention in July.

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The Thistle & Shamrock: Alan Reid

Alan Reid.

Alan Reid. James Madison Thomas/Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption James Madison Thomas/Courtesy of the artist

Marking their shared event at Edinburgh’s TradFest, host Fiona Ritchie revisits an encounter with her old friend Alan Reid, the singer and long-time Battlefield Band member who was also her very first radio interview subject. They reminisce about that meeting and reflect on musical journeys.

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The Environmental Cost Of Growing Food

Leonard Scinto, a researcher at Florida International University, standing beside a concrete post that measures the subsidence of soil in the Everglades Agricultural Area. In 1924, the top of the post was level with the ground surface.

Leonard Scinto, a researcher at Florida International University, standing beside a concrete post that measures the subsidence of soil in the Everglades Agricultural Area. In 1924, the top of the post was level with the ground surface. Dan Charles/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Dan Charles/NPR

Let’s say you’re an environmentally motivated eater. You want your diet to do as little damage as possible to our planet’s forests and grasslands and wildlife.

But how do you decide which food is greener?

Take one example: sugar. About half of America’s sugar comes from sugar cane, and half from sugar beets. They grow in completely different climates. Sugar cane is a tropical crop, and sugar beets grow where it’s colder and dryer.

Each one has an impact on the environment — sometimes a dramatic impact — but in very different ways.

If you go to south Florida, for instance, to the town of Belle Glade, there’s a silent yet dramatic measure of the cost of growing sugar there.

It’s a concrete post, painted white.

Environmental scientist Leonard Scinto, from Florida International University, is standing beside the pole, and the top of it is above his head.

But in 1924, when researchers drove that pole deep into the soil, they left the top of it level with the surface of the ground. Over the intervening decades, the land surface has fallen, exposing six feet of pole.

“We’ve lost two-thirds of the soil right here,” says Scinto.

That’s because the soil here is no ordinary dirt. It’s peat, the remains of long-dead vegetation. “It’s old decaying plant fiber,” says Scinto. “Decaying roots. It built up over a few thousand years in the northern Everglades. Built up bit by bit.”

A sugar beet. This crop supplies about half of America's sugar.

A sugar beet. This crop supplies about half of America’s sugar. iStockphoto hide caption

toggle caption iStockphoto

For all those thousands of years, it didn’t rot away, because the dead plants were submerged in water.

But starting a century ago, people drained this area and created the Everglades Agricultural Area. It’s a thousand square miles of fields for farmers like Rick Roth to grow vegetables and sugar cane. Especially sugar cane.

“I would make the argument that this is the best place to farm in the United States, if not the entire world,” says Roth.

The soil is fertile, but once exposed to air, it started to decompose. It turned into carbon dioxide and vanished. In another 50 or 100 years, so little soil will be left, it may not be possible to farm here anymore.

The drained expanse of the Everglades Agricultural Area also prevents water from flowing, as it used to, from Lake Okeechobee in the north into Everglades National Park in the south. The water that does make it through picks up fertilizer from the farmland, causing more damage to the natural wetlands of the park.

For all these reasons, environmental advocates and the government of Florida have been putting pressure on farmers to limit the damage; to use less fertilizer and keep more of the peat soil immersed in water.

Roth is actually in favor of all that. Protecting the environment is important, he says — but it can’t be more important than growing food.

“They’re trying to get land away from the farmers, saying that the Everglades is more important than food production, which I think is relatively insane,” he says. “Cheap food is the no. 1 goal! It should be the no. 1 goal of the world!”

This conflict between growing food and protecting the environment is not just playing out in the Everglades.

It’s everywhere, actually.

Harvesting sugar cane in Florida's Everglades Agricultural Area.

Harvesting sugar cane in Florida’s Everglades Agricultural Area. Dan Charles/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Dan Charles/NPR

If you don’t get your sugar from Rick Roth’s cane crop, you may get it from sugar beets that are growing on Bill Markham’s farm at the base of the foothills of the Rocky Mountains near Berthoud, Colo.

Growing beets, though, meant plowing up this area’s grasslands a century ago. It also meant bringing in water; you can’t grow much in this dry region without it.

“You got water coming out of the mountains. All our water comes out of the Big Thompson River,” says Markham. “They dug all the canals to get water to these farms.” But that means less water for fish and frogs and riverside vegetation.

No matter where food is grown, it has some environmental cost.

Increasingly, government officials and economists are trying to put a number on that cost. What’s the price of soil in the Everglades? Or river water in Colorado. That price, if we could agree on it, might help all of us decide which food comes at a cost that we’re not willing to pay.

Economist Catherine Kling, at Iowa State University, is working on this.

“In an ideal world, we would include the cost into a decision of where to produce, and how much to produce,” she says.

Kling admits that this is not easy. It forces economists to be inventive. They’ve studied how much farther people are willing to drive to visit a pristine ecosystem versus a polluted one, for instance. That’s a measure of how much they value it.

Before sugar cane is harvested, farmers set fire to it to burn away the leaves.

Before sugar cane is harvested, farmers set fire to it to burn away the leaves. Dan Charles/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Dan Charles/NPR

“Another way we do it is to straight-out ask people,” Kling says. How much would they pay to restore a wetland, and bring back wildlife there?

Like all prices, these are based on personal preferences. Kling says that people tend to put higher values on ecosystems that seem unique, beautiful, original and natural. She hasn’t tried to calculate the price that people would put on the ecosystem of the Everglades, and compare it to the grasslands of Colorado, but she suspects that people would consider the Everglades more valuable.

Ecologists aren’t always happy about these subjective judgments. An ordinary-looking grassland can be just as precious, ecologically speaking, as an alligator-filled swamp. “The key is not to lose ecosystems,” says Leonard Scinto, from Florida International University.

But the way Kling sees it, just talking about the economic value of ecosystems represents real progress. It’s evidence that policymakers — and even consumers — are starting to balance the value of food against the environmental cost of producing it.

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In Israeli Kindergartens, An Early Lesson In The Holocaust

A kindergarten teacher in Jerusalem stands with students as they listen to sirens that played nationwide on Thursday to commemorate Holocaust Remembrance Day. This year, a new national Holocaust curriculum is being fully implemented in kindergarten.

A kindergarten teacher in Jerusalem stands with students as they listen to sirens that played nationwide on Thursday to commemorate Holocaust Remembrance Day. This year, a new national Holocaust curriculum is being fully implemented in kindergarten. Ellen Krosney for NPR hide caption

toggle caption Ellen Krosney for NPR

Starting last night at sunset, Israel marked Holocaust Remembrance Day. Commemorations continued in schools around the country today, including in kindergarten classes.

This year, Israel is fully implementing a Holocaust curriculum for kindergartners.

“We need to teach the kindergarten teachers what to do on Yom HaShoah, because they have to make sense of the day,” says Yael Richler-Friedman, using the Hebrew name for the remembrance day.

She is a teacher trainer at Yad Vashem, Israel’s World Holocaust Remembrance Center, and helped write the kindergarten materials. They are part of a new comprehensive Holocaust studies program for Israeli students of all ages that was unveiled two years ago.

The program took time to take root, Richler-Friedman says, in part because of bureaucracy, but also because of the difficult subject.

“A lot of times, I see teachers and they say, ‘Don’t speak with me about it,’ ” she says. The teachers tell her, “It will take me to dark places. I don’t want it.”

But they can’t avoid it in Israel. Even in kindergarten.

Every year on Holocaust Remembrance Day, an air raid siren wails for two full minutes. Around the country, people stop whatever they’re doing — driving, working, talking — to stand still and remember. Even on highways, cars come to a halt.

The evening before, regular TV shows are cancelled and special Holocaust-themed programming airs. Shops close early.

Nava Ron, a veteran kindergarten teacher, says four- and five-year-olds know this day is different.

“You can’t ignore it. It exists. There’s the siren,” she said, sitting in a low blue plastic chair in Jerusalem’s “Rainbow” kindergarten. “Our job is to keep them calm and not give them too much information.”

This morning, she brought together her six oldest kindergarten students for a special conversation.

“Good morning, children,” she said.

“Good morning,” they chorused.

Then she began: “This is a very special day.”

In 10 minutes, Ron touched on all the main points that Israel’s education ministry wants communicated to kindergartners. First, she tells them the Holocaust is something that happened a long time ago, in a country far away from here.

Then she asks the children what they know about it. One child says Israeli soldiers protect them now. Another pipes up and says at that time, the whole world was at war.

Ron agrees. She directs the conversation toward democracy, tolerance and other ways to solve conflicts.

Kindergarten teacher Nava Ron says she's always explained a little bit about Holocaust Remembrance Day to help her students understand what is happening around them. She tells children it was part of a war a long time ago and far away, and she focuses on themes of tolerance and heroism.

Kindergarten teacher Nava Ron says she’s always explained a little bit about Holocaust Remembrance Day to help her students understand what is happening around them. She tells children it was part of a war a long time ago and far away, and she focuses on themes of tolerance and heroism. Emily Harris /NPR hide caption

toggle caption Emily Harris /NPR

Richler-Friedman, the Holocaust educator, says Israel standardized the kindergarten material in part because some teachers were saying too much. “Telling them about the gas chambers. The horrible person who wanted to kill all Jews and if he would live today, also he would want to kill all the Jews. Something that is very frightening. Even sometimes using pictures. Horrible pictures,” Richler-Friedman says.

Last year, some Israeli parents were outraged when their children came home on Holocaust Remembrance Day wearing yellow stars, the symbol Nazis forced Jews to wear to label and discriminate against them.

Another problem Richler-Friedman regularly sees is kindergarten teachers who simply avoid discussing the Holocaust, despite all the references children are regularly exposed to in Israel. Some, she says, pretend the siren is an emergency drill or an ambulance.

“Saying the siren is an ambulance or something like that — it’s not an educational act,” Richler-Friedman said. “It’s lying.”

But she is sympathetic, saying kindergarten teachers face the same struggle many people do when they really consider the Holocaust.

It can’t be forgotten. But it contradicts the humanity people want to pass on to their children.

Don Futterman, director of the Israel Center for Educational Innovation, still remembers terrible Holocaust photos he says he saw when he was way too young. Today, when the siren began, he stopped his car, got out and saw other things.

“I could see a building-sized billboard advertising new hoodie sweatshirts,” he says. “I could see the Israeli flag in my car. I could see all these other things of life that [are] going on since then. And I thought, that also makes sense. That was right. Because life does continue.”

Back in Jerusalem’s “Rainbow” kindergarten, Nava Ron gathered all the children just before the siren started today, and invited them to make the siren sound. They all knew how. When the real one began, some of them came to her for a hug.

When the wail faded away, “Okay,” she said. “Now back to our routine.”

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Election Commission Advisory Board Disagrees With Director Over Citizenship Rule

Kansas is one of four states that require residents to show proof of citizenship when they register to vote using a federal form.

Kansas is one of four states that require residents to show proof of citizenship when they register to vote using a federal form. Charlie Riedel/AP hide caption

toggle caption Charlie Riedel/AP

It looks like more bad news for the new executive director of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. Brian Newby is already being sued by the League of Women Voters for his decision earlier this year to allow Kansas and two other states to require residents to show proof of citizenship when they register to vote using a federal form. The move effectively reversed a long-standing EAC policy.

Now, the EAC’s advisory board — composed of election officials from around the country — has approved a resolution saying that such changes should be made by the commissioners themselves. The resolution, passed by a 13-7 vote during a two-day board meeting in Chicago, is only advisory, but clearly shows dissatisfaction with Newby’s actions.

Commission Chairman Thomas Hicks says it’s now up to the commission to take the recommendation “under advisement” and decide what to do.

He, for one, agrees with the sentiment. Hicks, a Democrat, publicly criticized Newby earlier this year for making the change. Hicks noted in a statement that the commission had “addressed this matter several times over the last decade and voted to decline requests” to add language to the federal voter registration form requiring proof of citizenship. Right now, the form simply asks individuals to swear — upon penalty of law — that they are citizens.

The two other commissioners, both Republican appointees, have not objected to the change. A fourth seat on the commission — which provides guidance to states on voting — remains open. Just last week, President Obama nominated former Nevada treasurer Kate Marshall to fill the vacancy.

The EAC controversy is part of a bigger fight over Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s move to require residents to prove citizenship when they register. Kobach says he’s trying to prevent non-citizens from voting, although there’s little evidence that’s been a serious problem in the state.

A Kansas resident shows part of a letter from election officials listing valid citizenship documents needed to register to vote in Kansas.

A Kansas resident shows part of a letter from election officials listing valid citizenship documents needed to register to vote in Kansas. Orlin Wagner/AP hide caption

toggle caption Orlin Wagner/AP

Voter advocacy groups argue that tens of thousands of Kansans have been blocked from registering to vote because they don’t have the required documents, such as a birth certificate, to prove citizenship. They say Kobach’s move violates federal law, and are suing him in federal court in Kansas City.

The other suit — against Newby and the EAC — was filed in federal district court in Washington, D.C. In that one, the League of Women Voters is asking the judge to block the proof-of-citizenship requirement before Kansas holds a primary in August. A decision is expected any day.

Newby argues that he has the authority to make the changes. But the fact that he is a former Kansas election official, with ties to Kobach, has raised suspicions among advocacy groups. At least two groups have asked the EAC’s inspector general to investigate.

Republicans, who generally back proof-of-citizenship laws, are watching the legal wrangling closely. If Kobach wins, there will likely be more legislation requiring voters to show such proof when they go to register.

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Vanguard Jazz Orchestra: 50 Years Of Mondays

May 5, 20165:26 PM ET

In 1965, the trumpeter, composer and arranger Thad Jones and the drummer Mel Lewis found themselves with a book of big-band music originally intended for the Count Basie Orchestra — and nobody to perform it. So they made their own. They handpicked some of New York’s top talent and called rehearsals on Monday nights, when the studio musicians could actually make it. And by the time they debuted on a Monday in February 1966 at the famed Village Vanguard, they were already a force to be reckoned with — soon to become the most influential big band of the last 50 years. The Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra, now the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, still plays every Monday night.

Jazz Night In America heads to the basement jazz shrine to see the band’s 50th anniversary show in February 2016, full of cuts from the original Thad Jones songbook. Our radio program tells the story of how the band came to be.


Mat Jodrell, trumpet; Jon Owens, trumpet; Terell Stafford, trumpet; Scott Wendholt, trumpet; Luis Bonilla, trombone; Jason Jackson, trombone; John Mosca, trombone; Douglas Purviance, bass trombone; Dick Oatts, alto sax/winds; Billy Drewes, alto sax/soprano sax/winds; Rich Perry, tenor sax/winds; Ralph Lalama, tenor sax/winds; Gary Smulyan, baritone sax; Michael Weiss, piano; David Wong, bass; John Riley, drums with Jerry Dodgion, alto sax.

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Donald Trump Celebrates Cinco De Mayo With A Trump Taco Bowl

Not the exact taco bowl Donald Trump ate, but you get the idea.

Not the exact taco bowl Donald Trump ate, but you get the idea. Matthew Mead/AP hide caption

toggle caption Matthew Mead/AP

De facto Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump celebrated Cinco de Mayo on Thursday. And being a Twitter aficionado, he couldn’t resist telling the world.

“Happy #CincoDeMayo! The best taco bowls are made in Trump Tower Grill,” he declared in celebration of the holiday that commemorates the Battle of Puebla in 1862.

“I love Hispanics!” he added.

Happy #CincoDeMayo! The best taco bowls are made in Trump Tower Grill. I love Hispanics!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 5, 2016

His message immediately caused a Twitter frenzy. Some were frustrated at what they felt was Trump pandering to Hispanics:

Look @realDonaldTrump loves “us”. And eats “our” taco salad in support of “Hispanics”. ???

— Joanna Cattanach (@ChickTalkDallas) May 5, 2016

And also, everyone had questions: Does Trump Grill even sell taco bowls? No, reported Buzzfeed’s Andrew Kaczynski. But wait, were we sure? Apparently the Trump Grill Cafe (a distinct entity from the Trump Grill) is serving a dish called “Taco fiesta!” which may be what he was eating.

Has a reputable food publication reviewed a Trump cafe taco bowl? Why, yes (Eater, scathingly). What does Chipotle think? Naturally, that its burrito bowls are better than Trump Grill’s. What reading material was stacked underneath his meal? Possibly a People magazine story on Marla Maples.

It’s general election season, everyone, and no stone will go unturned.

Trump’s big demographic problems

But then, there is a serious side to the Twitter-Trump-taco fest. For all that Trump says, “I love Hispanics,” they really do not love him.

His favorability ratings among that group of voters are nothing short of abysmal, according to several polls. His net-favorability rating with Hispanic voters was negative-65 in a March Gallup poll, with 77 percent having an unfavorable view of him.

In comparison, his fellow Republicans Ted Cruz, John Kasich, and Marco Rubio earned scores of -4, 1, and 6, respectively. (Admittedly, they were less well-known to respondents than Trump is.)

Democrats fared far better: Sanders came in with a net favorability of 19, and Clinton at 33.

That’s a huge problem for a party that has already known for years that it needed a boost among Hispanic voters. In its 2013 autopsy, the Republican Party advised its candidates to “engage” more with Hispanic voters in advance of 2016.

This wasn’t a futile quest, they stressed: George W. Bush proved that the GOP could perform well among Hispanic voters, winning 44 percent of that vote in 2004. But in 2012, Mitt Romney only won around 27 percent of Hispanic voters.

And as the Hispanic population grows (and fast), the bar is only being set higher for Republicans. That group’s share of the electorate has grown by 17 percent since 2012, according to the Pew Research Center, compared to 2 percent for white non-Hispanics.

Put another way, Hispanics make up an estimated 12 percent of eligible voters this year, per Pew. That’s almost double the 7 percent share in 2000.

In part due to that fast growth among Hispanics, pollster Whit Ayres wrote in 2015 that a candidate this year wouldn’t win with George W. Bush’s 58 percent of the white vote and 26 percent of the nonwhite vote (including minorities beyond non-white Hispanics).

Trump could maybe pick up more support as November approaches. But a recent poll suggests he would have a massive amount of ground to make up in the next six months. Only 14 percent of non-white registered voters in a Wednesday CNN poll said they would support Trump in a race against Clinton (again, compared to George W. Bush’s 26 percent final share of the 2004 non-white vote, McCain’s 19 percent in 2008, and Romney’s 17 percent in 2012).

The GOP knows it needs better Hispanic outreach

It’s true that for lots of Hispanics voters, immigration isn’t the top issue, and that it isn’t just a Hispanic issue. Still, the GOP did recognize in 2013 that a more welcoming immigration policy could endear them to more Hispanic voters.

“[A]mong the steps Republicans take in the Hispanic community and beyond, we must embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform,” the RNC wrote in its autopsy. “If we do not, our Party’s appeal will continue to shrink to its core constituencies only.”

Trump, of course, favors building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and deporting roughly 11 million people who are in the U.S. illegally (a study released Thursday found that that policy would slice 2 percent off US GDP).

All of which is to say that as Trump has a long way to go beyond tweets of taco bowls to reach out to Hispanic voters.

With reporting from Jessica Taylor.

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