Donald Trump has had a race problem since the earliest days of this race. From the announcement of his campaign — when he made his now-infamous all-Mexicans-are-rapists comment — his polling numbers have been in the tank among African American and Latino voters. One Public Policy Polling poll from late August showed the Republican candidate with zero percent support among African Americans. Trump hasn't given up on trying to woo black voters, but his latest gambit, is a dud. Trump recently enlisted Don King, and that may not only not help him with the African American vote — it may hurt him with white voters.
At the campaign event in Cleveland, King said "I told Michael Jackson, I said, if you are poor, you are a poor Negro — I would use the N-word — if you are rich, you are a rich Negro." He went on to say, "If you are a talented intellectual, you are an intellectual Negro. If you are a dancing and sliding and gliding n*****, I mean Negro..." This was followed by nervous chuckling from speaker and audience alike.
There has been much discussion of whether Trump's late-summer and early-fall targeting of voters of color is an earnest effort to gain their support, or whether he's trying to signal to conflicted white voters that he is not, in fact, a racist. King, who was convicted of second-degree manslaughter in 1996, has allegedly shady ties to organized crime and apparently throws around the N-word, may not be the surrogate for Trump to assuage white voters' concerns about him.
If, indeed, Trump sincerely believes he might be able to grab some portion of the African American vote, the numbers are showing his efforts may be in vain. Even a brief spike in African American support for the Republican in the USC Dornsife/LA Times Daybreak tracking poll, which showed nearly 20 percent support for Trump last week, corrected itself Wednesday, with his numbers back in the single digits among black voters.
It seems unlikely that King's presence on the campaign trail will be a game-changer for African Americans, but it could reintroduce anxieties about racism into the minds of educated white Trump supporters. Trump's numbers have often tanked following his racist outbursts, most notably in the weeks following the one-way feud with Judge Gonzalo Curiel (when his national support was at its lowest point since the primaries), and after he attacked the parents of slain soldier Humayun Khan, who spoke out against the GOP candidate at the Democratic National Convention. Trump's late-August appeal to black voters, asking "What the hell do you have to lose?" by voting for him ended up getting used against him in a Clinton campaign ad.
"Instead of him trying to bring us forward and be positive in front of Trump, he is trying to take us back," Barbara J. Holloway, an African American woman from Decatur, Georgia, told The New York Times of Trump's decision to include King. I wouldn't be surprised if other voters, regardless of their race, agreed with that assessment.