Black Voters Speak Out on Donald Trump's Recent Overtures

Donald Trump's play for black voters is receiving mixed reviews.

ByABC News
August 23, 2016, 3:03 PM

— -- Donald Trump’s latest direct appeals to black voters have been seen as a welcome change by some black attendees at Trump’s rallies, but many of those leaning toward Hillary Clinton say they see the attempts as disingenuous.

“I think it’s just a ploy to gain my vote,” said Sylvester Ollie, a 47-year-old African-American from Pennsylvania.

Some of the talking points that Trump has used — from repeating questionable claims that 58 percent of African-American youths are unemployed to asking voters “What do you have to lose?” by casting their ballot for him rather than Clinton — have rubbed some listeners the wrong way.

“It’s despicable,” said Walter Smith Jr., 68, from North Carolina.

“I can’t understand why the Republican Party doesn’t put a muzzle on him. Maybe they’re afraid he would bite through the leather,” Smith added.

Some black voters — vastly outnumbered by white Trump supporters — are attending the Republican presidential nominee’s events.

At his rally in Akron, Ohio, on Monday, Peter James, a 21-year-old Trump supporter, said he thinks the candidate shouldn’t face scrutiny for being honest.

“I came from a neighborhood where heroin is running rampant, a lot of the youth are unemployed, the school doesn’t graduate that many people and conditions like that are pretty much true for a lot of people,” James said.

Keith Kirkland, who also attended the Akron event, believes criticism of Trump lies more in politics and less in policies. “I think there’s a lot more African-Americans voting for him than you’ll hear about, because the persecution you get from liberal blacks if you even think about being Republican or conservative is pretty tremendous,” Kirkland said.

Omarosa Manigault, who is best known for being a contestant on the first season of Trump’s reality show "The Apprentice" and now serves as a senior adviser for African-American outreach for the Trump campaign, said to expect more black supporters to turn to Trump in the coming weeks.

In an Aug. 7 ABC News/Washington Post poll, Trump garnered only 2 percent support from black registered voters, trailing Clinton by 90 points.

But Manigault insisted, “You need to continue to watch these numbers over the next couple weeks,” because she has seen “a significant increase in the poll numbers but, more importantly, just an appreciation and enthusiasm” — though she didn’t specify which polls.

“The Democrats continue to take the African-American vote for granted ... They think they have the African-American vote on lock ... without any type of return on investment,” she told ABC News on Monday.

She said that the campaign has been “laying out for months” its outreach to black voters and that Trump’s recent comments are a result of that plan’s “really being implemented.”

“Now he’s doing a full-court press, which our entire coalition has planned,” she added.

She pointed to a meeting with black pastors held in Trump Tower in New York in November and the formation of the National Diversity Coalition for Trump in April as two signs that his outreach to minority voters is not new. But Trump has declined invitations to address the NAACP, the Urban League, the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

By contrast, Clinton addressed NAACP, NABJ and NAHJ events, and her running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine, spoke at the National Urban League Conference.

Manigault pointed out that the NAACP event was scheduled for the same day as the start of the Republican National Convention, so Trump “made the difficult decision” to skip the event in favor of being in Cleveland to hear his wife, Melania Trump, address the convention.

“Certainly he should have an opportunity address the bodies of those organizations, but it’s not the only opportunity,” Manigault said of the declined invitations.

With just 77 days left until the election, some say Trump’s efforts might be too late.

Donnell Weston, 44, who lives in Chicago, said that Trump’s plans to improve the lives of the people he talks about lack details.

“He doesn’t specify anything. It’s kind of like, ‘Give me a try, just to see how it happens.’ Well, this is politics. There’s too much at stake just to give someone a try at a whim,” Weston told ABC News.

“We’re not buying a shirt at one of the stores that we can take back. My vote counts, and I want to make sure it’s right,” he added.

ABC News’ Candace Smith contributed to this report.

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