Trump Courts Black Voters; Appears To Scale Back Immigration Plans

Aug 24, 2016
Originally published on August 24, 2016 10:35 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

We're going to sort through some new developments in the presidential campaign. In a moment, we'll look at how the Clinton Foundation is planning to scale back if Hillary Clinton wins the election. The head of the foundation laid out those plans to NPR late yesterday.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

There have also been questions about whether Donald Trump is scaling back his plans on immigration. NPR's Sarah McCammon is following that. She's on the line with us from Jackson, Miss., where Donald Trump will campaign later today. Good morning.

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: So last weekend, Donald Trump met with a roundtable of Hispanic leaders. Since then, we've heard a number of different things about where Trump is heading on immigration. What do you know, say, as of this morning?

MCCAMMON: Well, it's kind of been the mystery of the week with the Trump campaign. There had been indications that Trump was ready to soften his call for a deportation force to remove people in the country illegally.

His running mate, Mike Pence, said yesterday that would be sorted out in the next couple of days. And then Trump was asked about this in a Fox News town hall with Sean Hannity last night. Here's what he had to say.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "HANNITY")

DONALD TRUMP: There certainly can be a softening because we're not looking to hurt people. We want people. We have some great people in this country. We have some great, great people in this country.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: So - but we're going to follow the laws of this country.

MCCAMMON: And that sounds similar to the position of many Republicans and, frankly, of President Obama, who has stepped up deportations, compared to the Bush administration. Trump's campaign manager seemed to praise President Obama for that in an interview yesterday, while arguing Hillary Clinton will be weak on immigration.

MONTAGNE: But isn't there some risk that Donald Trump could alienate his base if he does, as he says, soften his position on immigration?

MCCAMMON: Right. Remember, this is the issue that has fired up so many Trump supporters from the very beginning...

MONTAGNE: Oh, yeah.

MCCAMMON: ...Fueled his campaign. At a rally last night in Texas, it sounded like some of the same old Donald Trump. He appeared with parents whose children were killed by people in the country illegally.

The crowd broke into chants of build the wall. You know, so the base is pretty locked in on this issue. But Trump has to expand beyond that if he wants to win the general election. Polls are making it clear.

Over the last month or so, he's been slipping several points behind Hillary Clinton. So there seems to be a tension here between whether Trump can pivot to expand his appeal to more moderate Republican voters, to minorities - and at the same time, just let Trump be Trump.

MONTAGNE: Right. But Trump has also been making what seems to be an appeal to African-American voters in recent days. He's speaking tonight in Jackson, Miss., as we said, which is predominantly an African-American city. You're there. What do you expect to hear?

MCCAMMON: So for months, Trump has said that he will do well with black voters, although he is registering in the low single digits in polls right now. And so in several recent speeches, he's been giving a pretty bleak portrayal of what life is like in black communities. Here's what he said this week in Akron, Ohio.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: Poverty, rejection, horrible education, no housing, no homes, no ownership, crime at levels that nobody's seen - you can go to war zones in countries that we're fighting. And it's safer that living in some of our inner cities. They're run by the Democrats.

MCCAMMON: And Renee, I've spent the past day here in Jackson, Miss. African-Americans here have told me that's not their experience of their community. And, you know, you hear Trump's pitch arguing that Democrats have failed African-Americans. But it's not clear it's resonating so far.

MONTAGNE: Yeah. Well, the people you've talked to - what are they saying?

MCCAMMON: You know, I'm not meeting a lot of fans of Donald Trump. I've heard what he says is demeaning - that he's talking down to African-Americans by making these broad-brush statements about how terrible things are.

A lot of people here have their views of Donald Trump pretty well-set. So all of this may not help Trump much with African-American voters, Renee, but it could help him with a key slice of white voters - those being suburban women.

They tend to be swing voters - often, really key for Republicans. And if they hear Trump talking about African-American issues and feel like some of the racial overtones may be softening on his campaign, that could help Trump.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Sarah McCammon speaking to us from Jackson, Miss., where Donald Trump will campaign tonight - thanks, Sarah.

MCCAMMON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.