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ICYMI: Greg Sargent Captures That Trump Immigration “Softening” Is Rhetorical Sales Job, Not Actual Policy Shift

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In analysis titled, “Can Trump Convince Suburban Voters He’s Not a Racist?” the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent captures the motivations behind Donald Trump’s supposed immigration “pivot,” recognizing that it’s a rhetorical sales job designed to shore up support from wavering white voters rather than an actual policy shift. Sargent writes:

“The Washington Post politics team has a great piece of reporting this morning that goes deep into Donald Trump’s evolving strategy to prove he’s not a ‘racist.’ It includes planned trips to African American neighborhoods, and possible attacks on Hillary Clinton over her support for the crime bill in the 1990s.

Meanwhile, many news organizations are reporting that Trump is signaling a ‘softening’ of his mass deportation stance. That hasn’t actually happened yet — Trump has still not clarified whether he’s actually open to legalization in any meaningful sense, which is the core question here — but still, he’s starting to get some of the headlines he wants.

Here’s something that helps explain what may really be driving Trump’s new makeover, and could help gauge whether it’s working. The Wall Street Journalreports this morning on new data showing that Trump is surprisingly weak in two key strongholds across the country — suburbs and exurbs.

…As I’ve argued, Trump’s new immigration rhetoric may be all about putting a much more humane and rational spin on his plans, while not altering the underlying goal of removing all the 11 million. Meanwhile, the Post report makes it clear that Trump’s new outreach to African American voters is only partly about winning them over — there is another target in mind:

‘For Trump, the objective is twofold, according to his aides and allies. He wants to make inroads with minority voters, who polls show overwhelmingly support Clinton. He also believes that a more measured approach on race can convince white voters now shunning him — especially women — that he is not the racist that his inflammatory rhetoric might indicate.’

In other words, all of this is very much tailored towards persuading suburban and exurban swing voters that Trump isn’t really the hater that they’ve seen shouting from their television screens for the last year. And as the Post story notes, this is a tall order: One recent poll found that 65 percent of American adults believe the word ‘racist’ applies to Trump at least to some degree.

Even some Republicans agree with the notion that Trump will have to reverse that perception among many white voters, and that his minority outreach is partly about accomplishing that goal. Check this out, from the Post story:

‘After 15 months of denigrating every nonwhite minority in sight, it’s hard to believe that he can actually do significantly better among nonwhites,’ Republican pollster Whit Ayres said. ‘But he may be able to soften his image a bit with some Republican and maybe a few independent whites who have been put off by his harshness thus far.’

There you have it. One way to gauge whether Trump’s new makeover is working, keep an eye on impressions of Trump among exurban and suburban voters.”