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The Journal Gazette

September 23, 2016 1:01 AM

'Deplorables' comment not as harmful as GOP hoped

Associated Press

WASHINGTON – It was supposed to be her “47 percent” moment. When Hillary Clinton said half of Donald Trump’s supporters belonged in a “basket of deplorables,” Republicans thought they might have found her campaign-crushing-blunder.

The gaffe, they hoped, was a way to cement an image as an out-of-touch snob, just as Democrats did four years ago to Mitt Romney after he said “47 percent” of voters backed President Barack Obama because they were “dependent on government.”

But a new Associated Press-GfK poll finds that Clinton’s stumble didn’t have quite the impact that Trump and his supporters wanted. Instead, it’s Trump who’s viewed as most disconnected and disrespectful.

Sixty percent of registered voters say he does not respect “ordinary Americans,” according to the poll. That’s far more than the 48 percent who say the same about Clinton.

Despite efforts by his campaign to keep him on message, his image as an outspoken firebrand who brazenly skips past societal norms appears deeply ingrained among voters.

Nearly three in four do not view him as even somewhat civil or compassionate. Half say he’s at least somewhat racist. Those numbers are largely unchanged from the last time the AP-GfK survey was conducted in July.

Even among those saying they’ll most likely vote for Trump, 40 percent say they think the word “compassionate” doesn’t describe him well.

Trump is viewed unfavorably by 61 percent of registered voters, and Clinton by 56 percent. But despite her similarly high unfavorability rating, voters do not hold the same negative views about her as they do of Trump. Only 21 percent believe she’s very or somewhat racist. Half say she’s at least somewhat civil and 42 percent view her as compassionate.

Democrats see Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric as a major campaign asset – for them. Clinton’s campaign spent much of the summer casting Trump as a dangerous force in American society, one that consorts with racists, anti-Semites and white supremacists.

Clinton’s comments about Trump’s supporters at a private fundraiser in New York on Sept. 10 were an admission that some of them were beyond her campaign’s reach.

Clinton said half of Trump’s supporters were in “a basket of deplorables,” a crowd she described as racist, sexist, homophobic or xenophobic. She then said Democrats should extend empathy to the other half, who are simply desperate for change and feel that government has let them down.