Donald Trump realises courting minority votes key to a win

Tycoon leaves it until very close to polling day to start talking directly to African-Americans

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has been reading his poll numbers and realising he has to appeal more to Hispanic, black and other minority voters if he is to have any chance of winning the US presidential election on November 8th.

But he has been going about it in his typical unorthodox way and has left it extremely late in the presidential cycle, with just 76 days until polling day, to start talking directly to African-Americans for the first time, arguing that they have been left worse off by eight years of a Democratic presidency.

Last week, at a campaign rally in Dimondale, Michigan – a city with a population that is more than 90 per cent white – Trump tried to court African-American voters with a strange approach. It showed not just the risks of making an unconventional pitch but his lack of understanding of this demographic group that might further alienate these voters.

“Look at how much African-American communities are suffering from Democratic control. To those I say the following: what do you have to lose by trying something new like Trump? What do you have to lose?” he asked his supporters.


“You are living in your poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58 per cent of your youth is unemployed. What the hell do you have to lose?”

Hillary Clinton, his Democratic rival, tweeted: "This is so ignorant it's staggering."

Not accurate

The extreme picture that Trump paints may not be familiar to black Americans because it is not accurate. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the poverty rate among African-Americans stood at 26 per cent in 2014, compared with 10 per cent for whites.

Politifact, the fact-checking website that scrutinises the candidates, ran the numbers on Trump’s claim on the high unemployment rate for black youths. It concluded that it appeared his figure included all 16- to 24-year-old black Americans who aren’t working and may not even be looking for a job, including students.

The US government Bureau of Labour Statistics found that the official unemployment rate for black Americans between the ages of 16 and 24 was 18.7 per cent, or less than a third of the figure Trump claimed.

Leaving Trump’s claims aside, most Republicans understand (or at least should) that their party has much ground to make up against the Democrats if it is to have any hope of winning a national election.

Voting blue

Black Americans have been voting blue for more than a half-century and the Republican challenge has intensified over the past three decades as the white vote, their traditional support base, is declining as the US moves closer to a majority minority nation.

"We have to do better, no question about it," Republican national committee spokesman and chief strategy Sean Spicer said on MSNBC on Monday of how the party needs to appeal more to the African-, Asian- and Hispanic-American communities.

Barack Obama, the country’s first African-American president, secured overwhelming support among black voters. The 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain won 4 per cent of the African-American vote and Mitt Romney fared a little better in 2012, with 6 per cent.

The latest NBC News/Survey Monkey weekly tracking poll of registered voters, published yesterday, showed Trump’s support among black voters at just 8 per cent and 22 per cent of Hispanic voters. (Romney won 27 per cent of the Hispanic vote and McCain 31 per cent.)

Other polls show Trump's standing among black voters at even lower levels. A Quinnipiac poll at the end of June put Trump at 1 per cent of the black vote. Last month's Wall Street Journal/NBC/Marist poll even put the billionaire's support among black voters at zero in Ohio, a key battleground state for the Republican.

Trump is belatedly trying to recover some ground. Last weekend he and his running mate Mike Pence visited flood-devastated Baton Rouge in Louisiana, a city where about 58 per cent of the population is black, one of the highest percentages in the country.

The billionaire's surrogate, Ben Carson, the retired African-American neurosurgeon, has also been trying to help Trump with black community leaders.

As with the New York billionaire’s new-found embrace of the Hispanic community and his promise to look for a “humane” way to deal with the 11 million illegal immigrants, his pitch to the African-American community appears too little, too late to break Clinton’s strong support among minority voters.

‘Iron-clad grip’

"It doesn't seem sincere. It seems like an afterthought," said Eduardo Gamarra, a professor of politics at Florida International University whose own polling of the Hispanic population confirms Clinton's "iron-clad grip" on those voters.

"This idea that you are going to African-Americans in the United States and there is not a single person of colour in your audience. At least he did a little better with Hispanics by meeting them."