A predictable reply to her speech this afternoon on Trump and the alt-right, but an effective one. (The clip below is part of a longer answer that touched on Trump’s new theme of how badly Democratic leadership has failed black voters.) Trump complaining about Democrats crying racism probably won’t reach far among nonwhites: A Quinnipiac national poll out today shows that 72 percent of them believe that “the way Donald Trump talks appeals to bigotry” versus 23 percent who don’t. Even among whites, 50 percent agree with that statement compared to 46 percent who disagree. (Among Democrats, the party that includes most minority voters, the split was 87/11.) If you’re already inclined to believe that Republicans wink at bigotry, as many Democrats do, Trump complaining about Clinton accusing Republicans of winking at bigotry is noise. It’s what righties always say when your own party accuses them of prejudice.
Among white voters, though, Trump’s point might resonate. You’d have trouble finding a Republican anywhere on the spectrum who hasn’t had his or her views on an issue dismissed by a liberal at some point as prejudiced. Trump’s complaint will hit home with them. And they’re his target audience, remember, not minority voters. I mentioned this a few days ago in looking at the new NBC/SurveyMonkey poll: The racial demographic that’s doing the most damage to Trump isn’t blacks or Latino, it’s whites. He’s polling historically poorly among blacks in some (not all) surveys, but Republicans already lose so spectacularly among that group that it’s hard to meaningfully underperform. Among Latinos he’s consistently pretty close to Romney’s dismal pace in 2012 and sometimes ahead of it. He’s way behind Romney’s mark among white voters right now, though, because of Clinton’s success in winning over white women, white college grads, and white suburbanites (many of whom overlap, of course). He also tends to poll worse among his own mostly white party than Hillary does among hers, which may be due to some Republicans agreeing with Clinton that Trump’s politics are too racial. To improve on Romney’s losing share of the popular vote against Obama, Trump needs to pile up white votes. Calling for solidarity from Republicans and leaners against another nasty partisan Democratic attack about racism is an obvious way to do it. It’s “the boy who cried wolf”: If you tuned out Hillary Clinton and her party the last thousand times they accused the GOP of bigotry, why would you listen to her now about the alt-right? Even though, as anyone who’s interacted with the alt-right knows (and as the alt-right itself happily admits), they really are a very different, shall we say more “racially conscious,” strain of right-winger than movement conservatives.
I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for this:
You could imagine Clinton attack inadvertently forcing a long overdue Trump "Sister Souljah" moment against racists https://t.co/rqnB3URqq4
— Nate Cohn (@Nate_Cohn) August 25, 2016
Even now, after the Grand Amnesty Sellout, I think alt-righters would tolerate a calculated “Sistah Souljah” speech by Trump in the name of winning. That’s because they wouldn’t believe he was sincere about it; David Duke has said many times that he doesn’t hold Trump’s disavowals of his support against him because he knows it’s something Trump has to do protect himself politically. But Trump’s walkback on legalization has obviously complicated the calculus. He’s already pushed his alt-right further than they’d like to go by suggesting illegals might be allowed to stay. His minority outreach over the past two weeks can’t be playing well either. Dumping on them in a big speech would be pressing his luck, especially if his polling remains grim and they conclude that he’s not the vessel for a great nationalist takeover of government after all.
Update: A Twitter pal asked during Hillary’s speech why none of Trump’s primary opponents gave a speech like this. Answer: Because they would have opened themselves up to exactly this kind of rebuttal, that they were engaging in Democratic attacks by “crying racism.” The default assumption on the right is that, barring extraordinary evidence, every accusation of racism against a Republican is made in bad faith. Ted Cruz hitting Trump on this would have taken more of a beating from it (“Ted is a liberal!”) than Trump would.