Former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke was interviewed by NPR's Steve Inskeep this week, and he reiterated his affection for the man at the top of his party's ticket.
Duke is running for the U.S. Senate from Louisiana, and he pledged that, if elected, "nobody will be more supportive of [Donald Trump's] legislative agenda, his Supreme Court agenda than I will. I'm 100 percent behind it." He criticized Republicans and "so-called conservatives" who were balking at Trump.
"There's a lot of political correctness in this country," Duke said, later adding that critiques of Trump as bigoted or racist were "nothing more then epithets or vicious attacks." When he announced his bid, Duke said that he was pleased to see Trump "embrace most of the issues that I’ve championed for years."
To the chagrin of the Republican Party in the state, which quickly denounced Duke's candidacy, there's no primary to weed Duke out of the mix before the November election. Every candidate running is on the ballot then, with the top two headed to a runoff if no one gets 50 percent of the vote.
In a recent poll conducted by the University of New Orleans’ Survey Research Center, Duke gets the support of about 13 percent of the state, with more opposition from older voters — who likely remember his past runs for office, the pollsters note — than younger ones. That level of support mirrors his favorability rating in the poll; 14 percent view him favorably to 82 percent who don't. (Only 4 percent of respondents weren't familiar enough with Duke to have an opinion.)
But here's the weird thing, as the New York Times' Campbell Robertson pointed out on Twitter on Thursday. Duke, a former leader of the Klan, gets support from 14 percent of black voters — a figure that eclipses the support Trump gets nationally or in nearby Georgia in a new poll from that state.
In three national polls released this week, Trump averages 2.3 percent from black voters. In Georgia, he got 5 percent. (In polls conducted before the conventions in Ohio and Pennsylvania, Trump got zero percent of support from black voters.)
The Survey Research Center poll has some caveats that should be noted. It's landline only, because it's an interactive voice response poll where a recorded question is asked and respondents push buttons to record their answers. Our pollster Scott Clement points out that nearly half of Lousianans use only cellphones. The poll also only asked about Duke, instead of comparing candidates head to head.
But it's not like 14 percent support is good. The contrast here is mostly because Trump's levels of support among black voters are so bad. As the Louisiana Senate race continues and Duke's past is put in front of voters, it's hard to believe that 1 in 10 black voters would still consider him to be acceptable.
Duke's embrace of Trump, though, offers some indication of why black voters are so skeptical of the well-known Trump. Democratic presidential candidates have won the black vote by 77, 91 and 87 points in the past three elections, according to exit polls, so he was never likely to do terribly well. Trump's statements on racial issues — and his failure to immediately denounce Duke in an interview in February — have clearly compounded that existing partisan disadvantage.
In that NPR interview, Duke pledged his loyalty to a President Trump. If Trump gets only a small fraction of the vote from nonwhite voters, there won't be a President Trump for Duke to support.