(CN) – Donald Trump will visit Mexico on Wednesday, meeting with a Mexican president who has compared him to Adolf Hitler.
The surprise move by the GOP standard-bearer, just 10 weeks before the general election and hours before he’s scheduled to deliver a “major” speech on immigration before supporters in Arizona, is considered a politically risky.
For Trump, who polls show is trailing Democrat Hillary Clinton in the key battleground states that are likely to determine the race for the White House, the trip provides him with an opportunity to appear more presidential.
It is Trump’s first foreign visit since he secured the Republican nomination in Cleveland in July. In June, he visited Scotland in the immediate aftermath of the U.K.’s vote to pull out of the European Union, and embarrassed himself after he congratulated Scottish voters for choosing to leave the E.U.
In fact, Scots voted overwhelmingly to stay in the E.U., and the outcome of the larger U.K. vote has inspired renewed talk of Scotland holding a vote on its own independence from Great Britain.
That said, Scotland was at least marginally friendly territory for Trump. The Republican presidential candidate is widely despised in Mexico due to his disparaging comments about Mexicans and his campaign promises to build a huge wall between the U.S. and Mexico and to renegotiate the NAFTA trade agreement to make in more favorable to the U.S.
In recent days, as his poll numbers have sagged and he’s tried to win over more moderate voters, Trump has begun to moderate his position on what has become his signature issue.
Where in the past he has said he’d create a “deportation force” to expel the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S., he has lately been saying he is open to softening his stance.
Then, last week, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto extended invitations to both Trump and Clinton to visit his country. The invitation puzzled political analysts in Mexico, who said the widely unpopular Pena-Nieto has little to gain from meeting the candidates.
So far, only Trump has taken Pena-Nieto up on his offer of a private meeting, although Clinton previously met with the Mexican president in 2014.
On Tuesday, the El Universal newspaper wrote in an editorial that Trump “caught Mexican diplomats off guard” by accepting the invitation.
But Pena-Nieto sought to cast the meeting in a different light Tuesday, tweeting, “I believe in dialogue to promote Mexico’s interests in the world and, principally, to protect Mexicans wherever they are.”
The visit has also inspired widespread speculation about what Trump will say about his immigration policy when he speaks in Phoenix, Arizona shortly after 6 p.m. Wednesday night.
Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager, told NBC’s “Today” show that her boss has “made very clear that he hasn’t changed his position at all when it comes to enforcing the law.”
Conway also said voters should expect Trump to use his speech tonight to reiterate his opposition to amnesty for illegal immigrants, his commitment to building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, and his intention to revoke President Barack Obama’s executive orders on immigration.
The Clinton campaign mainly shrugged when it came to the news of Trump’s Mexican trip.
“What ultimately matters is what Donald Trump says to voters in Arizona, not Mexico, and whether he remains committed to the splitting up of families and deportation of millions,” said campaign communications director Jennifer Palmieri.
FILE – In this May 1, 2016, file photo, a man dresses a donkey to resemble Donald Trump in preparation for the costume competition at the annual donkey festival in Otumba, Mexico state, Mexico. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell, File)
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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