Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on Friday urged African Americans, who have largely stayed away from him, to try him once because they have nothing to lose.
Trump told them they have been let down by the Democratic party, which they have supported and voted for for decades, and they may as well try something new — like him.
“Look at how much African American communities are suffering from Democratic control,” the nominee told supporters, mostly whites, at a rally in Michigan.
“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, straying from the speech scrolling on the teleprompter.
Then he ad-libbed some more: “You live in your poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58% of your youth is unemployed, what the hell do you have to lose?”
That was awkward. The headline of a Washington Post analytical piece caught it well: “It’s hard to imagine a much worse pitch Donald Trump could have made for the black vote.”
Though he went off-script in this instance, this was a theme Trump had essayed the day before in North Carolina where he asked for a chance, making the same you-have-nothing-to-lose argument.
Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign hit back saying African Americans had “everything” to lose by supporting a man “who questions the citizenship of the first African American President” and calling Trump someone who “courts white supremacists, and has been sued for housing discrimination against communities of colour”.
Trump is struggling with non-white votes, having antagonised Hispanics with his comment early in the race about Mexicans being criminals and rapists.
He has done no better with African Americans. At a campaign rally in California in June, he called out to a black supporter saying, “Look at my African American over there.”
Trump has gone on to claim in his bombastic manner that if the community gives him a chance, he will do so much for them he will be polling at 95% support from the community after four years.
For now, however, he is getting only 1% nationally to Clinton’s 85%, according to a Fox News poll earlier this month. In key swing states Ohio and Pennsylvania, he is scoring zero.
Among Hispanics, Trump is trailing Clinton by 60 points.
He is running 5.7 points behind his Democratic rival in the RealClearPolitics average of polls nationally, and is fighting a growing perception that his campaign is in trouble.
He parted ways with his campaign chairman Paul Manafort on Friday, two days after naming Stephen Bannon, a hard-charging media executive, his campaign chief executive officer.
This was the second major shake-up of the campaign hierarchy and was generally not taken as a good sign with less than three months to go for the November 8 elections.