Donald J. Trump's visit to a black church [in Detroit] on Saturday will be a major moment for a candidate with a history of offending the sensibilities of black Americans. His team was leaving nothing to chance. Instead of speaking to the congregation at Great Faith Ministries International, Mr. Trump had planned to be interviewed by its pastor in a session that would be closed to the public and the news media, with questions submitted in advance. And instead of letting Mr. Trump be his freewheeling self, his campaign prepared lengthy answers for the submitted questions, consulting black Republicans to make sure he says the right things.
A new national poll from USA Today/Suffolk broke down respondents by race, and it led to an interesting tidbit: Among African-American voters, Donald Trump is generating 2% support, which is lower than the backing for Gary Johnson and Jill Stein.
Let that sink it for a moment: in a presidential race featuring two competitive candidates, Trump is running fourth among black voters.
It came on the heels of a Public Policy Polling survey, also released this week, that showed Trump with a favorability rating below 1% among African Americans.
When Trump famously pointed to a black audience member during a recent event, saying, "There's my African American over there," maybe the Republican was almost being literal about the number of committed supporters he has in the black community.
The GOP nominee, in other words, has a bit of problem when it comes to diversifying his base of support. Team Trump has some ideas about improving matters, but as the New York Times reported, even this plan is burdened by controversy.
The Times obtained an eight-page draft of what is effectively a script: Bishop Wayne T. Jackson, the church's pastor, has shared the questions he intends to ask Trump, and the candidate's responses, crafted in part by RNC aides, have also already been predetermined.
The document includes "the exact wording" Trump is supposed to use.
It'll be interesting to see whether or not the church and the candidate change things up in light of the NYT report -- because it would take some chutzpah to proceed anyway as if nothing happened.
On a related note, Trump was originally supposed to address the Great Faith Ministries International congregation, then plans changed and we were told the candidate would attend services, but not speak. As of this morning, the plan has reportedly changed back, and now Trump is going to speak after all.