Trump tries to woo women and minorities by pitting one group against another

Immigrants and refugees are taking jobs from black workers. Undocumented criminals prey on American women. Muslims pose a threat to gays and lesbians.

For Donald Trump, appealing to minority groups and women often amounts to an "us vs. them" proposition – warning one group that they are being threatened or victimized by another, using exaggerated contrasts and a very broad brush.

"Poor Hispanics and African-American citizens are the first to lose a job or see a pay cut when we don't control our borders," Trump said at a rally last week in Akron, Ohio, adding that blacks in particular should vote for him because their lives are so terrible: "What do you have to lose? You'll be able to walk down the street without getting shot. Right now, you walk down the street, you get shot."

From the very start of his presidential campaign, Trump has shaped his message around who is to blame for America's problems – often pointing the finger at illegal immigrants, Black Lives Matter activists and other minorities in a pitch that was aimed primarily at white Republicans.

But now, as Trump seeks to reach out to women and minorities who favor Democrat Hillary Clinton, the GOP nominee has increasingly taken to pitting one group against the other in a bid for support. It's not clear how well it will work: Many minority voters, already turned off by months of blunt and polarizing statements, still hear the language of separation in Trump's words.

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"Look, I just think a lot of his views are very ignorant," said Crystal Woods-Brookes, who is black, as she folded clothes at a laundromat a few miles south of Trump's Akron rally. "This is not our country, in his words … I believe that's his whole purpose, to divide, to put us … against each other, make one believe the other side is better."


"I believe now he's trying to change because – it's not about black people, it's about the votes," she added. "He's already made his point quite clear, as far as I'm concerned."

The real estate developer and his team insist that he wants to be an "inclusive" president, and he is in the midst of an outreach effort that includes a new stump speech and meetings with blacks, Latinos and others. He has also engaged in a war of words with Clinton over racial issues, repeatedly calling her "a bigot" because he says her policies have not helped minorities.

Amid criticism for pitching to minority voters while speaking to overwhelmingly white audiences, Trump will hold a question-and-answer session Saturday at the Great Faith Ministries in Detroit, which has a primarily black congregation. It will be the first of many such events at black and Latino community centers, according to the campaign.

For many of Trump's supporters – including some minorities fearful of national security threats – Trump's rhetoric on immigration is more about facing up to the grim realities of a dangerous world, even if that means saying uncomfortable things about Muslims.

Alejandro Lugo, who moved to Miami over 20 years ago after living in Cuba for 30 years, said outside a recent campaign event in Ft. Lauderdale that he's concerned the United States is not vetting new immigrants sufficiently. He also rejected any comparison between Cuban refugees and Syrian refugees seeking to escape the Islamic State.

"The Cubans that came were running away from Castro. They settled in Miami, they worked. But we did not use an 18-wheeler truck to kill 150 Americans. And the Muslims, they do that. Cubans don't do that," Lugo said. "If the Cubans come from Cuba and they start killing American people, they have to be vetted. If you have connections with al-Qaida and you come here to kill my family, I don't want you in this nation."

For the most part, though, Trump's message has not resonated yet with either minorities or women, who strongly favor Clinton in opinion polls. Most also think Trump is biased against those groups, polls show.

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The Rev. Dr. William Barber, the president of the North Carolina NAACP, said in a recent interview he objects to Trump's reductive view of the black community: that all African-Americans live in poverty, that their communities are the sources of crime, and that they have been fooled into voting for Democrats.

"You're saying, 'All black people. … They're all lazy, they're all poor,'" he said. "It fits that racialized narrative that crime is a particular community's problem rather than crime being a reality in the American construct."

After Trump cited the "oppression of women and gays in many Muslim nations" in June to support his call to temporarily ban Middle Eastern immigrants from entering the country, LGBT leaders accused Trump of fear-mongering after the Orlando massacre – and of suggesting in the process that there are no gay Muslim immigrants.

Women's groups and activists have also blasted Trump for suggesting that immigrants are a disproportionate threat to women, a rhetorical appeal they say is intended to divide communities among racial lines.

"This is the culmination of all the different ways in which he has painted groups with a very broad brush," said Marcy Stech, vice president of communications for EMILY's List. "Every week he has shown us this side of him, exposing his racist and misogynistic world view. And any attempt to erase those moments now is just not going to work."

Jose Torres, 54, a computer programmer currently working at the Orlando airport, said he was unfazed by Trump's new pitch to AfricanAmericans and Latinos and his potential "softening" on whether he would seek mass deportation of 11 million undocumented immigrants.

"Honestly, the guy as I see him is good at earning money, but as a politician, he's got radical ideas and I'm not in agreement with him. I think he's very racist, also," Torres said. "It'll cause disunity in the country."

Jeremiah Armstrong, 33, who lives in Akron, said that Trump's new message to black voters suggests a competition between voters where it merely doesn't exist. A self-employed barber, Armstrong said that the notion that immigrants are taking jobs away from other minorities in the United States does not match with his own experience.

"Let me ask you a question: how many black farm workers do you know? Where around here can you find someone where a Hispanic has come and taken a job?" Armstrong said. "We don't accept those jobs anyway. I've never been offered one and I've never had one taken away from me, so I don't think that's the issue."


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Trump's focus on tough law-and-order talk has also agitated members of the Black Lives Matter movement, who believe he has failed to understand their concerns. Trump escalated his law enforcement rhetoric in recent months, suggesting several times that protesters are wrong to question police actions.

"Those peddling the narrative of cops as a racist force in our society, a narrative supported with a nod by my opponent, share directly in the responsibility for the unrest in Milwaukee and many other places within our country," Trump said during a campaign rally in West Bend, Wisconsin. "They have fostered the dangerous anti-police atmosphere in America."

Many political strategists say the real payoff to Trump's overtures to minority voters would be to assuage moderate Republicans concerned by charges that he is racist. But most are doubtful it will change the minds of minority voters.

"The attempt is at trying to fix a problem he has with mainstream voters, and I'm not optimistic that will work," said veteran GOP strategist John Weaver. "It's heavy handed, it's such a ham-handed attempt. Here's his problem: People would have to have etch-a-sketch memory in their brains to forget everything he has said."

Ed O'Keefe in Orlando, Jenna Johnson in Washington and Eva Ruth Moravec in Austin contributed to this story.