WASHINGTON -- This was supposed to be the new -- new! -- Donald Trump, the more temperate Republican candidate who had emerged in the past two weeks seeking to broaden his appeal to a more diverse electorate.
But with the presidential election just two-and-a-half months away, Americans seem decidedly unimpressed by this latest in a long series of tweaks, turns and transformations.
The White House hopeful has been more disciplined in form, reading from prepared speeches and focusing his fire on his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton, pounding away at the theme that donors to the Clinton Foundation charity were given special access to the then-secretary of state and her aides.
And in terms of substance, he has polished his message, spending more time on the economy and reaching out to minority voters, particularly blacks and Hispanics.
By presenting that seemingly less abrasive and more tolerant image, Trump hopes to accomplish two objectives: to gain support in minority communities where Clinton holds an overwhelming advantage, and to persuade middle-class whites offended by his more contentious rhetoric that they can safely return to the Republican fold.
“He’s trying to do both; he will probably succeed at neither,” said Larry Sabato, a veteran political scientist with the University of Virginia.
The wealthy New York populist has chosen a risky line of attack against Clinton, accusing her of being not just corrupt but a cynical and uncaring racist.
“Democratic politicians have run nearly every inner-city in America for 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, 100 years. Their policies have produced only more poverty, total joblessness, and failing schools,” Trump said Thursday in New Hampshire.
“She doesn’t care. She’s too busy raking in cash from people and rigging the system and taking the African-American vote and the Hispanic vote and saying, ‘We’re going to do a great job.’ And right after the election, it’s ‘bye-bye, I'll see you in four years.’”
Whether this offensive bears fruit may not become clear for a few weeks. Polls so far show Clinton doing a bit better among minorities even than Barack Obama did in 2012, with support from more than three in four voters, according to a new Quinnipiac Poll.
But it seems unlikely that minority voters will forget the xenophobic vitriol of the past year in just a few weeks.