© 2021 WFAE
90.7 Charlotte 93.7 Southern Pines 90.3 Hickory 106.1 Laurinburg
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Wealthy Candidates Struggle To Connect With Working Class Voters


And we start with politics and money. Hillary Clinton released her latest tax return. It shows she and Bill Clinton made more than $10 million in 2015. Donald Trump has yet to release his returns. He says he's a multibillionaire. Now, compare those sums to the typical American household, coming in at around $54,000 a year. NPR's Sarah McCammon reports on how these wealthy candidates have been trying and sometimes struggling to connect with voters in other tax brackets.

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Money has been a big theme in this election.


DONALD TRUMP: I don't need anybody's money. I'm using my own money. I'm not using the lobbyists. I'm not using donors. I don't care. I'm really rich.

MCCAMMON: By almost any standard, both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are really rich. Trump often touts his wealth as evidence of his competence and success, promising to create jobs for working people. Clinton, meanwhile, points to her middle-class Midwestern roots, as she did in her speech to the Democratic National Convention last month.


HILLARY CLINTON: Well, no one had their name on big buildings. My family were builders of a different kind.

MCCAMMON: Clinton talked about her grandfather working to build a better life by working in a lace mill in Scranton, Pa., and her father's experience running a small business. Trump, too, has tried to demonstrate that he understands the lives of regular people. Speaking to the National Association of Homebuilders in Miami yesterday, Trump reminisced about his father - also a builder - during some of his construction sites.


TRUMP: But my father would go and he'd pick up the sawdust. And he'd pick up the nails - the extra nails. And he'd pick up the scraps of wood. He'd use whatever he could use and recycle it in some form or sell it. And it was a constant process, and he did a beautiful job.

MCCAMMON: While Trump touts his ability to accumulate vast wealth in the real estate business, Clinton has come under fire for the amount of money she and her husband have made since leaving public office. In June of 2014, ABC's Diane Sawyer asked her about her lucrative paid speeches to audiences that have included Wall Street firms.


CLINTON: We came out of the White House not only dead broke, but in debt. We had no money when we got there, and we struggled to, you know, piece together the resources for mortgages for houses, for Chelsea's education. You know, it was not easy.

MCCAMMON: That answer was widely panned by Clinton's critics. Republican pollster Frank Luntz says he's no fan of either Clinton or Trump, but he says Clinton's carefully rehearsed style feels inauthentic to many working-class voters.

FRANK LUNTZ: The working-class voters, they want you to let loose. They want you to say what you mean and mean what you say.

MCCAMMON: Speaking via Skype, Luntz said, despite Trump's massive wealth, his willingness to say anything to anyone has given him credibility with working-class people who are tired of being talked down to. But Luntz says Trump's slipping poll numbers over the past few weeks suggest his style may be turning off the upper-middle-class voters the Republican Party has long relied upon. Sarah McCammon, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.