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Trump's minority outreach off to rough start

Sara Murray and Ashley Killough, CNN | 9/3/2016, 7:22 p.m.
Donald Trump's highly publicized efforts to woo minority voters aren't going exactly as planned.
Donald Trump speaks after he accepted the nomination for president of the United States at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio on Thursday, July 21, 2016. CNN photo

(CNN) -- Donald Trump's highly publicized efforts to woo minority voters aren't going exactly as planned.

In the week and a half since Trump's advisers touted an aggressive push to make inroads with African-American and Latino voters, the GOP nominee delivered a hardline immigration speech, lost the support of some of his prominent Latino backers and faced ridicule for attempting to tightly choreograph his visit to an African-American church slated for Saturday.

"It's going abysmally bad for Trump right now," said Javier Palomarez, chief executive of the US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, in a blunt assessment of Trump's outreach to Hispanic voters.

The Trump campaign's sudden decision to spotlight minority outreach efforts with less than three months until Election Day came amid mounting concern in his campaign that some voters viewed the GOP nominee as racist.

But some have viewed Trump's efforts thus far as ham-handed. That's partly because he regularly makes his pitch to minority voters in front of almost entirely white audiences. But it's also because -- even as the Trump campaign has added events with more diverse audiences -- they've tended to be small roundtables stacked with participants selected by the campaign.

"He talks about us, and he doesn't talk to us," said Bettina Inclán, the 2012 director of Hispanic outreach for the Republican National Committee. "It doesn't matter whether you are white, black, brown, yellow or red, (voters) want authenticity -- that you're not just going to them for their vote but you care about their issues."

She was one of multiple strategists and leaders of minority efforts who questioned whether Trump's appeals were truly aimed at non-white voters and whether they are focusing more on optics than actual engagement.

"Sometimes these outreach efforts seem like they're geared to appease Republicans and white voters who are leaving him," Inclán said.

Jason Miller, a spokesman for Trump, dismissed that perception.

"Mr. Trump is committed to being a president for all Americans, and unlike Hillary Clinton, that includes campaigning hard for everyone's vote," said Miller, as he knocked Clinton for her relatively light public schedule. "Mr. Trump knows that by working together, we can improve economic opportunities for everyone, make our communities safe and break up Washington's rigged system that has left too many behind."

Ahead of Trump's visit to an African-American church in Detroit on Saturday, a New York Times report suggested Trump's latest diversity stop would be scripted by his advisers. After receiving advance questions from Bishop Wayne Jackson for Saturday's question-and-answer session, Trump's advisers prepared an eight-page transcript of replies for the candidate.

The pastor now says he plans to ask some questions that haven't been pre-screened and said Trump would also address his congregation.

"He's been preaching to African-Americans from a backdrop of white people," Jackson, the pastor of the Great Faith Ministries Congregation in Detroit, told CNN on Friday. "His statements are that 'I'm going to make the black community better.' ... We want to know how you're going to do that."

Jackson told reporters Saturday that Trump's answers weren't scripted, though he acknowledged Trump was ready for the questions.