2016 elections, African Americans, Ben Schreckinger, Bernie Sanders, black clergy, blacks, Democrats, Donald Trump, Following Up, Frank Luntz, Hillary Clinton, Hispanics, illegal immigration, Immigration, Jobs, Politico, pollsters, racism, Republicans, voters, white supremacists
Big reasons for skepticism still abound, but I couldn’t help but noticing a piece on the Politico.com website today quoting Republican election strategists – and one genuine big shot by name – as claiming that Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump could win enough African-American support in a general election to beat Democrat Hillary Clinton. This new article echoes a post I wrote last September, which focused on Trump’s possible appeal to a black population that has lost lots of jobs and job opportunities thanks to the political establishment’s love affair with mass immigration.
There could well be a big wishful-thinking component at work in the Politico piece. Indeed, who can forget how badly many Republican pollsters and consultants mis-judged the makeup of the electorate during the last presidential election and were stunned by Barack Obama’s victory by a very healthy electoral vote margin. And there’s no doubt that political prediction has been an especially hazardous business during this campaign.
At the same time, Politico has become a go-to source of elections-related information and analysis. So its decision to run this article indicates that lots of the powers-that-be in national politics take seriously the chance that Trump could lure significant numbers of black voters away from Clinton or her chief Democratic rival, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. At least, consider the evidence presented by Politico reporter Ben Schreckinger.
Most notably, he quotes leading Republican political guru Frank Luntz as claiming that if Trump won the GOP nomination, “he would get the highest percentage of black votes since Ronald Reagan in 1980 [14 percent]. They listen to him. They find him fascinating, and in all the [focus] groups I have done, I have found Obama voters, they could’ve voted for Obama twice, but if they’re African-American they would consider Trump.”
Schreckinger quotes another pollster (anonymously) who has allegedly “tested Trump’s appeal to blacks and Hispanics and come to the same conclusion. ‘He behaves in a way that most minorities would not expect a billionaire to behave….He’s not a white-bread socialite kind of guy.”
The author adds that “Already, Trump has been laying groundwork in the African-American community that could pay dividends in a general election. With the help of his political and business adviser Michael Cohen, Trump has spent years cultivating black faith leaders. Last year, he held meetings with black pastors in Georgia and at Trump Tower in New York. Trump’s team has also made a pair of black female video bloggers, Lynette ‘Diamond’ Hardaway and Rochelle ‘Silk’ Richardson, prominent surrogates online and on the trail.”
Further, some independent polls have found that a Trump candidacy would win a not-negligible share of the combined black and even Hispanic vote. Given Republicans’ poor recent performance with these groups, any substantial improvement could tip certain key states.
Of course, it would be a big mistake to overlook the obstacles to such Trump successes (other than the 800-pound gorilla in the room of Hispanics punishing Trump en masse for his strong opposition to illegal immigration and especially his deportation proposals – which I continue to think he’ll back away from in favor of curbs on employments and government benefits opportunities that will both produce significant ”self-deportation” and weaken America’s attraction to prospective newcomers).
After all, some of Trump’s outreach to African-American clergy hasn’t gone swimmingly. He’s also on record as having made several remarks widely considered racist. And the backing Trump has gotten from white supremacist groups, however unwanted, can’t help.
Nonetheless, so far during primary season, anyone betting against Trump has been a big loser. The general election of course won’t be exactly the same, or even close. But neither will it be 100 percent different.