Donald Trump Says GOP 'Must Do Better' In Reaching Out To African-Americans Speaking for "the party of Lincoln" before mostly white crowds, Trump's focus on crime and poverty may have another benefit if it doesn't boost support from African-American voters.

Trump's Appeal To Black Voters May Repeat Past Mistakes Of GOP Outreach

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Donald Trump says he wants the GOP to be less white. Recently, the Republican nominee has been trying to get that message out to minority voters, in particular, African-Americans. Last night in Virginia, he said his is the party of Lincoln and black Americans should take another look at his candidacy. But Trump's numbers with minority voters are dismally low. Here's NPR's Sarah McCammon.

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: In front of audiences filled mostly with white faces, Donald Trump has been making this kind of pitch.

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DONALD TRUMP: Look how much African-American communities have suffered under democratic control. To those, I say the following - what do you have to lose by trying something new like Trump? What do you have to lose?

MCCAMMON: Trump spoke Friday night in Dimondale, Mich., an overwhelmingly white community near Lansing. He gave a speech titled Donald J. Trump Invites African-Americans to Join Change Movement.

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TRUMP: I say it again. What do you have to lose? Look, what do you have to lose? You're living in poverty. Your schools are no good. You have no jobs. Fifty-eight percent of your youth is unemployed. What the hell do you have to lose?

MCCAMMON: Trump has made other sweeping generalizations along these lines before. PolitiFact recently rated that claim about black youth unemployment mostly false, finding the jobless rate for African-Americans ages 16 to 24 was just under 19 percent. That's more than double the rate for whites in the same age group, but far less than the figure Trump used. Trump also took his message to West Bend, Wis., last week. It's a mostly white town 40 miles from Milwaukee, where protests had broken out after police shot and killed a black man just days before.

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TRUMP: The main victims of these riots are law abiding African-American citizens living in these neighborhoods.

MCCAMMON: For months, Trump has argued that he has tremendous African-American support. In Michigan on Friday, he told the crowd...

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TRUMP: And at the end of four years, I guarantee you that I will get over 95 percent of the African-American vote. I promise you.

MCCAMMON: Current polling shows Trump not even reaching 5 percent. Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons, who is African-American, calls the idea of Trump getting a large share of the black vote a pipe dream.

JAMAL SIMMONS: Black voters are still looking at what he says about Mexicans. And we know that once you start identifying people by racial group - or Muslims, by religion - you start that circle. It tends to come back around and smack black voters in the face pretty quickly.

MCCAMMON: GOP strategist Ron Christie, who is also black, says Trump should start by spending more time in black communities.

RON CHRISTIE: All black folks aren't in jail. All black folks aren't on welfare. All black folks aren't poor. But Republicans, I think, have made the mistake of putting the largely African-American messaging in terms of crime, poverty and welfare, rather than talking about empowerment, self-sufficiency and achieving the American dream.

MCCAMMON: Jamal Simmons says the Trump campaign's message to African-Americans may actually be aimed at suburban white women.

SIMMONS: Those voters are primed to vote for a Republican, but they don't necessarily want to be associated with somebody who has racist or bigoted views.

MCCAMMON: While white voters make up the overwhelming majority of his supporters, Trump will take his message to a majority black community this week when he holds a campaign rally in Jackson, Miss., on Wednesday. Sarah McCammon, NPR News.

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