You could see this one coming: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has launched a TV ad in Pennsylvania leaping on Hillary Clinton’s statement Friday that half of Trump’s supporters are “deplorables.”
Trump’s ad, which is running in four battleground states, isn’t subtle.
“Speaking to wealthy donors, Hillary Clinton called tens of millions of Americans deplorable,” an announcer says, “people like you, you, and you (while images of Trump supporters fill the screen) … you know what’s deplorable? Hillary Clinton viciously demonizing hard working people like you.”
In her speech at a fundraiser in New York, Clinton defined the deplorables as “the racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, you name it.”
Clinton later regretted saying that half of Trump’s supporters are deplorable, but said the Republican candidate’s encouraged and empowered people with extreme views.
Who you callin’ deplorable?
Clinton’s comments evoked Barack Obama saying (also at a fundraiser) in 2008 that many people in small, economically stressed towns in Pennsylvania and the Midwest cling to guns and religion out of frustration.
The comment was seen as patronizing working class people, and his primary opponent at the time, Hillary Clinton, had a field day criticizing him. He later said his words were ill-chosen.
I wondered if folks in Pennsylvania who didn’t care for Obama’s “guns and religion” bit might also resent Clinton’s “deplorables” remark and harm her in the state.
So I called a sampling of voters from the most recent Franklin & Marshall poll. A little more of half were aware of Clinton’s comments, and reactions mostly broke along partisan lines.
Victor Klepfer of Armstrong County, a registered Democrat and Trump supporter, got his back up about it.
“I don’t like to be called names,” he said. “It’s going to hurt her. She’s going to lose a lot of votes over this.”
Another Trump supporter, Cheryl Killian of Lancaster, said, “I think that’s a terrible thing to say, that his supporters and not good people. I consider myself a good person.”
Killian told me she became a Democrat in 2008 and voted for President Obama then and for his re-election four years later. She believes he’s accomplished a lot, but doesn’t find Clinton trustworthy.
Mary Mando, a registered nurse from McKean, Pennsylvania, near Erie, is a Clinton supporter.
“I agree with her,” Mando said. “It seems to me that a lot of them are, mostly, a lot of bigots.”
Does it matter?
Will Clinton’s gaffe affect her standing among the state’s independents and undecideds?
It’s a rule of thumb in politics that you can criticize policies and opponents, but you don’t attack voters.
(It’s fair to note that Trump has tread that ground before. “How stupid are the people of Iowa?” he asked once, rhetorically, in a speech.)
I asked Terry Madonna, director of the Franklin & Marshall poll, whether Clinton’s “deplorables” speech will hurt her.
“We don’t know yet. It’s probably going to take a good week until we learn in public opinion polls whether it’s made a difference,” he said. “But it certainly can’t help.”
Madonna also noted that if you add undecided voters, those who say they could change their minds, and those who now say they’re for the Libertarian or Green Party candidate, between 15 and 20 percent of the state’s electorate could still be up for grabs.
Meanwhile the Clinton campaign has new ad with video of prominent Republicans harshly criticizing Trump.
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina leads off, calling Trump “a race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot.”
Sounds deplorable, doesn’t it?