The race for the White House is less than 60 days away and the presidential candidates are feverishly pitching the general electorate in an effort to maximize outreach and swing the race in their favor. Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonClinton lawyer's indictment reveals 'bag of tricks' Attorney charged in Durham investigation pleads not guilty Attorney indicted on charge of lying to FBI as part of Durham investigation MORE is attempting to reshape the electoral map with a concerted and calculated effort to swing once reliably red states such as Georgia, Arizona, Utah and North Carolina blue.
Polling data shows the Republican stronghold that has gripped these respective states for decades is loosening and Clinton is hoping to strike electoral gold. Never one to be upstaged, real estate mogul and Republican standard-bearer Donald TrumpDonald TrumpKinzinger says Trump 'winning' because so many Republicans 'have remained silent' Our remote warfare counterterrorism strategy is more risk than reward Far-right rally draws small crowd, large police presence at Capitol MORE is also mining for riches in the form of African-American voters.
However, where Clinton has managed to secure several high-profile endorsements from Republicans, Trump's outreach to black voters has been less bang and more whimper. While the race has tightened in key battleground states and nationally, Trump's support among communities of color is on life support.
Meanwhile, as the sun continues to set on President Obama's historic presidency, the fervor and excitement exhibited by people of color continues to elude his would-be successors, especially Trump. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows Trump getting 0 percent support from black voters in Ohio and Pennsylvania, two crucial states he will need to win in order to secure victory in November. Such abysmal ratings place even greater pressure on the Trump campaign to secure a larger share of white voters, particularly white suburban women and white college-educated voters, two demographic groups he is currently losing.
Should the GOP nominee continue on his current trajectory, he would become the first Republican in 60 years to lose white college graduates. His recent trips to Mexico and Detroit were entreaties to audiences turned off by the real estate mogul's messaging.
Obama has enjoyed enormously high favorable ratings with African-Americans and Latino voters, making the billionaire-turned-politician's climb toward minority voters even steeper. A largely scandal-free presidency, coupled with a first family that many see as exemplary examples of American values, has the African-American community, in particular, pining for another four years of the Obama presidency.
Trump, by contrast, is the proverbial bull in a china shop, as exhibited by his dark and demeaning remarks on the state of black America. The billionaire businessman's lack of grace, charm, wit and swag, even, routinely boxes him in as he attempts to capture the first African-American president's most ardent supporters.
Now the post-Labor Day sprint is in overdrive and the race is becoming more competitive. The Trump campaign's concerted effort to cast a wider net beyond the largely white-male demographic bloc supporting his candidacy is music to the ears of down-ballot Republicans in tough races. Though Clinton has had her own troubles courting minority communities, she still leads Trump by a wide margin with black and Latino voters. Both candidates continue to post stratospheric unfavorable ratings and these influential voting blocs could be the deciding factor determining the next occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Moreover, as early voting is now underway in North Carolina, a state with a large number of African-American voters, Trump's nascent efforts to peel support from the Democratic nominee could prove too little too late.
If Trump — or for that matter, Clinton — wishes to occupy a place next to Obama in the hearts of minority voters (despite his very questionable engagement with communities of color) stock speeches and photo ops are not enough. The candidates must embody the multilayered experiences of communities of color; their hopes and their dreams. In the age of Black Lives Matter, visits to churches and historically black colleges and universities are not enough. Voters of color want candidates to walk in their shows; they need Trump (and Clinton) to empathize with their plight and struggles. Candidates must literally (not figuratively) carry the mantle.
Obama set the bar high for change, but as demonstrations and protests continue to rage across the nation and racial tensions reach their zenith, the struggle continues. Trump's halfhearted attempts at outreach makes for great click-bait and will own the media coverage, but it will not move the political needle for people of color who often feel pushed to the fringes of society or relegated to the shadows.
Visits to Mexico City and Detroit may curry favor with a largely white media establishment, but until minorities are taken seriously and not treated as mere props, Trump will continue to feel the squeeze, stuck between Barack and a hard place.
Ham is a national political analyst and author of the book "The GOP Civil War: Inside the Battle for the Soul of the Republican Party." Follow him on Twitter @EKH2016.
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