RICHMOND — Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Thursday distilled Donald Trump’s recent pitch to black voters to something bumper-sticker short and snappy: “Your life sucks.”
“What he said about the African Americans, ‘You’re all — you have no jobs, your schools are horrible, you’re worthless.’ Is that an endearing message to get people to vote for you?” McAuliffe, a close friend and political ally of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, said in a Richmond radio interview.
Jimmy Barrett, host of WRVA’s “Ask the Governor” program, broke in with a quibble.
“He didn’t call them ‘worthless,’ just for the record,” Barrett said. “But I understand what you’re saying.”
McAuliffe continued: “Well, basically the implication is, ‘Your life sucks.’ ”
Asked about McAuliffe’s remarks, Trump’s campaign released a statement he made on the campaign trail Thursday.
“This is the year that the people who have been betrayed by Democratic policies, including millions of African-American and Hispanic-American citizens, reject the politicians who have failed them and vote for change,” the statement said.
“As I’ve discussed for many days now, Democratic politicians have run nearly every inner city in America for 50 or 60 years or more. Their policies have produced only more poverty, joblessness, and failing schools.”
Seeking to reset his faltering campaign, the Republican nominee has recently tried to appeal to black voters, saying Democrats have taken their votes for granted. But Trump’s approach has offended some listeners because of his use of sweeping language to describe the status of blacks. And economists also say he has inflated figures for black youth unemployment, which the Bureau of Labor Statistics puts at 19.2 percent.
“Look at how much African American communities are suffering from 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?” Trump said at a recent campaign stop. “You live in your poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58 percent of your youth is unemployed. What the hell do you have to lose?”
The campaign also issued a statement from Lynne Patton, vice president of the Eric Trump Foundation, who is African American and who narrated a video shown at the GOP convention about being welcomed into the Trump family:
“I think what my boss is saying is the Democratic Party has made a lot of promises to the Black and Latino communities that have just never materialized,” the written statement said. “The numbers don’t lie. Since Barack Obama took office the amount of African Americans living in poverty has risen by 1.4 million. Black home ownership has dropped from 47 percent to 41 percent.”
Among people identified as black in the census, 9.94 million were in poverty when Obama took office in 2009, according to Valerie Wilson, director of the Economic Policy Institute’s Program on Race, Ethnicity and the Economy. That number rose to 10.76 million in 2014, the most recent year for which figures were available, an increase of about 811,000.
But among those who identify as black and some other race, the number is closer to what the Trump campaign claims. Poverty in that group increased by 1 million people, from 10.58 million in 2009 to 11.58 million in 2014, Wilson said.
The poverty rate, however, remained almost unchanged over that period, a time of population growth. For people identified as black alone or in combination with other races, the poverty rate was 25.9 percent in 2009 and 26 percent in 2014.
Wilson also noted the poverty numbers do not reflect significant labor market gains made by African Americans in 2015 and 2016, she noted.
The black homeownership rate fell from 46 percent in 2009 to 42 percent in 2015, the last full year for which figures were available, Wilson said. The decline started before Obama took office in 2009 and was a result of the financial crisis and the collapse of the housing market, Wilson said.
Trump and McAuliffe were once on good terms, back when the real estate mogul opened his checkbook for Democrats and McAuliffe was a prolific fundraiser for Clinton and her husband, former president Bill Clinton.
Trump gave $25,000 to McAuliffe’s failed 2009 bid for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, according to the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project. Trump’s name is emblazoned on a winery in the commonwealth, a critical swing state in recent presidential elections.