Trump 'a wrecking ball' for Republican hopes, say candidates
Key Republicans have distanced themselves from presidential candidate Donald Trump's denunciation of illegal immigrants from Mexico as rapists and criminals, saying he has become "a wrecking ball" for the party's ability to win Hispanic voters.
Announcing his candidacy last month, Trump accused Mexico of sending rapists and other criminals into the United States. He later added that illegal border-crossers from Mexico were carrying "tremendous infectious disease".
Numerous companies have cut ties with the billionaire real estate developer over his comments.
"At the end of the day, for us to win a national election, we have to do better with Hispanics," presidential candidate and South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham said.
"And for us to have the moral authority as a party to govern a great nation, we have to reject this demagoguery. If we don't, we will lose and we will deserve to lose."
With the Hispanic population rising, Hispanic voters are becoming increasingly important in US politics. Their support helped Democratic President Barack Obama win re-election in 2012. Most illegal immigrants in the United States are Hispanic.
Senator Graham said Trump had "hijacked the debate" over immigration policy, adding: "I think he's a wrecking ball for the future of the Republican Party with the Hispanic community."
Trump jumped into a virtual dead heat with former Florida Governor Jeb Bush atop the field seeking the 2016 Republican presidential nomination in a new Reuters-Ipsos poll.
During a campaign speech in Phoenix at the weekend, Trump wooed America's "silent majority" and blasted critics of his immigration comments.
South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, a daughter of two immigrants and considered a potential 2016 Republican vice-presidential candidate, said she understood frustration on immigration but called for communicating with "respect and dignity."
House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner said other Republican presidential candidates "have much more responsible positions" than that of Trump.