Trump seeks to win Michigan with help of African-American voters

'In four years, I will get 95 percent of the African American vote'

DIMONDALE, MI — Donald Trump is making a play to turn Michigan into a red state come election day. 

He's doing so by reaching out to two voter blocks: African-Americans and Latinos.

Trump spoke to supporters and undecided voters on Friday at the Summit Sports & Ice Complex in Dimondale, a village in Windsor Charter Township located about 10 miles southwest of Lansing.

His primary pitch: unlike the Republican Party, the Democrats have "sold (African American and Latino voters) out for personal gain."

"To the African Americans of this country, I say this. What do you have to lose by trying something new like Trump?" Trump said to a crowd of more than a thousand people. "You're living in poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs.

"What the hell do you have to lose?"

Trump claimed the failed policies of cities run primarily by Democrats have been left to ruin through wasteful spending and corruption. He cited Detroit as a recent example.

 "I'm asking for the votes of every African American in this country who wants to see a better future," he said. "(The Democrats) have only produced joblessness, failed schools and broken homes. It's time to hold them responsible for what they have done."

His speech on Friday signaled a change in how he reaches out to voters. Trump's flattery toward African Americans and Latinos is relatively new tactic in his campaign.

Trump formerly demonized Mexican illegal immigrants as "rapists" and "thieves."

He said that if minority citizens don't believe him, they should vote for him and see where they're at financially after his first term.

"In four years, I will get 95 percent of the African American vote," Trump said.

As his speech ended, Jennifer and Michaela Nelson, a mother and daughter from Lansing, were among the massive crowd exiting toward their cars.

Jennifer, 43, said that she and Michaela are independent voters. Jennifer was once a Democrat, and Michaela, 17, worked on Sanders' primary campaign.

As African American women, both said they were not entirely swayed by Trump's newfound outreach. 

"Listening to him speak about African American voters in Michigan specifically, that wasn't who was in the crowd today, so I was a little confused as to why he was bringing that up," Jennifer said. "I can't tell you how many times the words 'African Americans' came out of his mouth today but that wasn't who was in the audience."

Jennifer added that she was happy to hear that out of Trump, but suggested he stump in those communities to make his point clear.

"In my opinion, what he talked about today would really appeal to African American voters," Jennifer said.

Michaela agreed. She also questioned Trump's motives.

"You just can't generalize the entire community and say we are impoverished, no matter what race it is," Michaela said. "He needs to do more in general for blacks no matter the class."

Trump talked about bringing back Michigan manufacturing jobs by lobbing weighty taxes against corporations that move their business overseas. He attacked his rival, Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, highlighting her "failures" as Secretary of State.

"Clinton is a legacy of destruction and terrorism," Trump said. "She offers no apologies for her government corruption. You deserve better. I am the change agent. I am your messenger, nothing more."

Trump currently trails Clinton in almost all national polls by at least 10 points.

The crowd hung on Trump's every word, chanting the candidate's name at times, and "Lock Her Up" at any mention of Clinton.

Sue Stevens, 61, from Lansing, was one of the Trump faithfuls at the Dimondale rally. Stevens said Trump's economic message resonates with her the most.

"His point is strong and narrow," Stevens said. "We're hurting. He's going to get rid of Obamacare, which put a penalty on poor people who can't afford it. He absolutely has to be our next president."

Others were more tepid about Trump, including Mark Coughlin, 36, originally from Shepherd. Coughlin describes himself as an undecided, Bernie Sanders "or Bust" voter.

He's been making it a point to see as many Trump and Clinton campaign stops as he can to make a decision. While he praised Trump's attempt to become more inclusive, Coughlin said it doesn't forgive his supposed racism.

"I follow the news enough to know he just added some new people to the top of his campaign, and I applaud him for making a woman the head of his campaign," Coughlin said. "But I think it's hard to backtrack on all the awful things he's said about women and minorities."

"I don't think he's the racist that people make him out to be. I don't think he's necessarily a great man though. I think the damage was done."


About Ben Solis

Ben Solis is the Managing Editor of Central Michigan Life. He has served as a city and university ...

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