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Republicans on the border: The final push for the Latino vote

NOGALES, Arizona — Less than one mile from the Mexican border, a single-story brick building stands painted red, white and blue with the words "JOBS, JOBS, JOBS" written in all capital letters on the side.

This is the home to the Republican campaign office here, the first ever in Santa Cruz County. It's also home to a store that sells handmade crafts imported from Mexico. The store's owner, Mike Melendez, was a registered Democrat little more than a year ago. Now he's a Republican and running to be Santa Cruz County supervisor.

"We are really needing for a lot of change. Mr. Trump is saying he is going to create more jobs — he is going to make America great again" Melendez told CNBC

Nogales is more than 90 percent Hispanic and strongly Democrat. In 2008 — with hometown hero John McCain on the ballot — Santa Cruz County turned out for Barack Obama 72 percent to McCain's 27 percent. But the head of Arizona's GOP said he came to Nogales, really listened and saw an opportunity. Democrats take the Latino vote for granted, said Robert Graham, chairman of the Arizona Republican Party. He said the GOP started community outreach, Toys for Tots, food drives, to try to connect with voters in this blue county.

Mike Melendez in Nogales, Arizona.
Justin Solomon | CNBC
Mike Melendez in Nogales, Arizona.

Still, it's an uphill climb to turn people who might vote for a Republican in a local race into Donald Trump supporters. After all, hearing Trump call Mexicans rapists and drug dealers has resonated.

Dulce Rodriguez, a Democratic Party volunteer in Nogales, told CNBC: "I am not any of those things, especially my family. They are very hard working people. My friends as well. So for my community it was a shock because we are all Latinos. "

And business owners along Nogales' shopping corridor are worried about how a Trump presidency would damage their business, which is already suffering due to a drop in tourism and a rise in the dollar against the peso.

Michael Son said his business at his clothing is down 40 percent year over year. He says a Trump presidency would "kill" the little business he and other shop owners in downtown Nogales are able to hold onto. "That would kill Nogales. right now, it's barely surviving," he told CNBC. He said Trump has denounced NAFTA, promised to build a wall and vowed to punish American companies that send jobs to Mexico.

But Melendez doesn't worry about the financial impact on his business.

"If Mr. Trump gets elected and he puts a fee of 20 percent or 30 percent, I would just be getting less of a profit because Mexican goods have a lot of profit, they have a lot of margin. "

Trump's promise to build a wall along the border and his vow to deport more than 11 million undocumented immigrants may energize the Latino population. The wall's not a popular here.


GOP bumper stickers and signs in Nogales, Arizona.
Justin Solomon | CNBC
GOP bumper stickers and signs in Nogales, Arizona.

"People who actually live down there, they are concerned about border security but just building, you know, a medieval style wall or whatever exactly Trump's talking about is not what they're looking for," said The Arizona Republic national political reporter Dan Nowicki.

In a recent poll by the newspaper, 42 percent of likely Arizona voters said a wall should "definitely not" be built while 27.2 percent said one "definitely should" be built.

Border patrol along the U.S./Mexico border in Nogales, Arizona.
Justin Solomon | CNBC

The early vote count in Arizona is 1.4 million, according to NBC News. The state's Democratic Party reports 12 percent of those ballots came from Hispanic voters — that's double the number of early ballots from Hispanic voters in 2012. That year, Latinos made up 17 percent of the voters statewide. This year, that number is expected to grow 8 percent, according to Naleo Education Fund.