Halfway across the country Tuesday, Donald Trump was charting a different course. In the midst of racial turmoil in Milwaukee following the fatal shooting of a black suspect by police, Trump made a point to campaign Tuesday night in the predominantly white city of West Bend, Wis., about an hour outside Milwaukee. Before the event, he met with local law enforcement officers to emphasize his commitment to being the “law and order” candidate.
The vastly different approaches to minority outreach by the candidates and their campaigns mirror the fault lines of a divided nation.
While Trump has largely avoided outreach to African Americans and has become a sharply polarizing figure among Latinos and other minorities, Clinton is counting on those same voters to be reliable constituencies for her in the fall.
In the predominantly African American neighborhood here where Clinton appeared Tuesday, the Democratic nominee is likely to win by a landslide. But the crowd at the West Philadelphia High School gym was given a stern warning: Don’t be complacent.
“Even though we’re doing fine right now, I’m not taking anybody, anywhere for granted,” Clinton said at a voter-registration rally.
Her campaign’s strategy in Pennsylvania keeps to the path it has followed elsewhere. In urban Democratic centers such as Philadelphia, the campaign is focusing on turning out its base, especially minority voters. In suburban and rural enclaves, the campaign is doing intensive outreach to moderates and Republicans, hoping to turn them against Trump.
“I want to be a president for not just Democrats but Republicans and independents, too,” Clinton said in Philadelphia. “I want to be the president for those who voted for me and those who don’t vote for me.”
Trump has spoken confidently about earning the support of Hispanic and black voters, dismissing his abysmal polling numbers among minorities as he seeks to brand himself as someone who can unify the country.
But the GOP nominee’s incendiary remarks about Mexicans, Muslims and other minorities have continued to wound him in the polls, while his face-to-face outreach to minority groups has been limited. In July, for example, Trump turned down an invitation to address the annual NAACP convention in Cincinnati.
Trump’s deep unpopularity among minority voters has helped Clinton offset his party’s traditional strength among white voters in key battleground states, including Pennsylvania.
On Tuesday evening, Trump sought to beginning mending those tensions. During his speech in West Bend, he said that critics of the police have made police officers’ jobs more difficult, at the expense of innocent victims of crime.
“The violence, riots and destruction that have taken place in Milwaukee is an assault on the right of all citizens to live in security and to live in peace. Law and order must be restored,” Trump said.
He addressed the concerns of African Americans, accusing Clinton and the Democratic Party of failing to adopt policies that could lead to more effective policing.
“It must be restored for the sake of all, but most especially for the sake of those living in the communities,” Trump said. “The main victims of these riots are law-abiding African American citizens living in these neighborhoods. It’s their jobs, it’s their homes, it’s their schools and communities which will suffer the most as a result. There’s no compassion in tolerating lawless conduct for anyone.”
But he faces sharp resistance that has been months in the making.
At a campaign rally last week in central Pennsylvania, Trump suggested that he would lose in the state only if people in “certain areas” committed rampant voter fraud — a comment widely seen as referring to minority-heavy parts of the state, such as Philadelphia.
For many black voters, the comments struck a discordant note. The decades-long legal effort to roll back Jim Crow-era restrictions that were intended to suppress the African American vote is still fresh in their minds.
“For African Americans, they’ve been trying to take away the vote,” said Grillison Sharida, 58, a Clinton volunteer who spends Saturdays at a West Philadelphia park registering voters. “White people don’t have to worry about that.”
Clinton and other Democrats have decried recent efforts by GOP lawmakers across the country to pass new voter-ID laws, which they say disproportionately affect minorities and younger voters. They have also won legal challenges to such laws in key states such as North Carolina and Wisconsin.
Trump regularly offers praise for police officers during his campaign rallies and on several instances has accused the Black Lives Matter movement of aggravating tensions within communities and against police officers.
He echoed those comments Tuesday after the unrest in Milwaukee. “We have to obey the laws, or we don’t have a country,” Trump told Fox News. “You have a case where good people out there are trying to get people to calm down, and they’re not calming down.”