Trump courts minority voters

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Donald Trump is ramping up outreach to blacks and Hispanics as he seeks to close a massive gap with Hillary Clinton among the minority voters who have shunned his campaign.

In speeches and at rallies, the Republican presidential nominee is directly appealing to African-Americans for the first time, making the case that Democratic policies have harmed the black community.

Trump is also reaching out to Hispanic voters, convening meetings with leaders in the community as he mulls making changes to what has been a hard-line stance on immigration that has been focused on building a wall on the Mexican border and deporting illegal immigrants.

Republican officials have publicly said that Trump needs to do better with minorities.

Polls suggest that as little as 1 percent of black voters may back Trump, and he is doing worse with Hispanics in polls than predecessor Mitt Romney, who failed to win 30 percent of the demographic in 2012.

“We’ve got to do better, no question about it,” Sean Spicer, an adviser to Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, said Monday on MSNBC.

Trump has gone into cities run by Democrats to argue that liberal policies have exacerbated the social and economic hardships that African Americans face.

Over the weekend, Trump and running mate Mike Pence visited flood-ravaged Baton Rouge, La., a city with one of the highest concentrations of black people in the nation.

Former GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson has been connecting Trump with leaders in the black community, Carson adviser Armstrong Williams said, and meetings with key African-American figures are expected to take place in Detroit and other cities before election day.

“Trump finds it outrageous that black people think he doesn’t have their interests at heart or that he’s a racist,” Williams said. “He’s working to correct that now and it’s a sincere effort. He’s not going to let the media or Democrats have the final word on his relationship with the black community.”

There was some speculation earlier in the cycle that Republicans could improve on their 2012 showing with black voters since President Obama won’t be on the ticket, but Trump has so far failed to capitalize.

Romney took only 6 percent support among African-Americans. Trump consistently polls around 1 percent or less. 

Trump’s allies insist that’s about to change.

They argue the GOP nominee’s recent moves show he is committed to running an inclusive campaign.

Still, some Republicans say Trump is wasting his time going after a demographic that is unlikely to give him a serious look in November.

GOP pollster Frank Luntz said that Trump risks playing into Democrats’ hands by narrowing his message to focus on specific demographic groups.

“It is better for Trump to attempt to appeal to all voters rather than trying to segment them,” Luntz said. “Trump is at his best when he addresses issues that all voters care about. Trying to appeal to an individual voter segment will be seen as pandering.”

Trump and the Republican National Committee have also launched a joint effort to court Hispanic voters, who make up the fastest growing segment of the electorate.

The RNC released a video on Monday arguing that Hispanics have disproportionately suffered under the Obama economy.

And at a meeting with Hispanic leaders over the weekend, Trump said that he’s reconsidering his stance that a mass-deportation task force is needed to round up undocumented immigrants and send them home. 

Trump’s private pitch to the Hispanic leaders marked a shift in tone for the nominee and was encouraging to his supporters. 

“Hispanics have not closed off to Trump, there are still a great many that hang in the balance this election cycle,” said evangelical pastor Mario Bramnick, who was in the Saturday meeting. “I’ve seen the development and growth of Trump’s Hispanic outreach in close settings, and I can tell you his heart is into it and I’m very excited about what we’ll hear from him in the coming weeks.”

GOP support among Hispanics has suffered a full collapse since President George W. Bush carried 40 percent of the vote in 2004. 

Trump is consistently topping out at 20 percent support among Hispanics, and in some cases is polling only in the teens, leading some political watchers to declare that the damage is substantial and irreversible. 

Geoffrey Skelley, a nonpartisan political analyst with the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, said there is possibly an ulterior motive to Trump’s minority outreach.

“Part of that is about trying to attract the suburban white voters who are skittish over some of the language he’s used in the campaign,” Skelley said. “He’s trying to change his tone to attract some of those white college-educated voters and to staunch the bleeding to Clinton among that group.”

Trump’s critics have been angered by his outreach and are increasingly ramping up their rhetoric against him.

GOP strategist Ana Navarro called Trump a “racist” on CNN on Monday, and Democrats are working overtime to highlight his past positions and statements.

They’re hammering Trump for hiring Steve Bannon, who has been accused of race-baiting as an executive at Breitbart News.

Some are arguing that Trump’s warning that the election is “rigged” is coded language meant to arouse suspicions about black voters.

Trump, critics say, refused to disavow the endorsement of former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke right away and fanned the flames of conspiracy around Obama’s birthplace.

“The cake is baked. He’s defined. He’s known as a racist and a bigot. He’s insulted Mexicans and Latino immigrants from day one … [and] he’s used xenophobia and nativism as a core element of his campaign,” Frank Sharry, the head of immigrants rights group America’s Voice, said Monday on a press call. 

“The idea that in late August in the general election campaign … [he’s had] his first meeting with Hispanic supporters is ridiculous,” Sharry added. “It’s not going to mean a thing.”

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