Beaten and bruised by the string of sexual assualt allegations raining down on him, the beleaguered Donald Trump grabbed his chance to make a last ditch appeal to ‘Hindu Americans’ at an outsize gig choreographed by Indian millionaire Shalabh Kumar of the Republican Hindu Coalition who’s pushing the notion that “conservative (Republican ) values are Hindu values” and that he’s single handedly adding muscle to the Indian (read Hindu) clout in American policy making.
Shalabh Kumar is one of Trump’s biggest fundraisers and Trump paid back generously in a warm speech in Edison, New Jersey despite the sobering facts - the Indian-American community leans overwhelmingly Democratic. Roughly 70 percent plan to vote for Hillary Clinton compared with 7 percent for Trump, according to most polls.
Just for comparison, Hillary Clinton has at least twice as many six-figure donors as Donald Trump. The unconventional Republican nominee has struggled to raise money from the kinds of traditional donors who write the biggest campaign checks.
Trump was probably dreaming of his real estate projects at the Hindu American gala - “Mumbai is a place that I love. It is a place that I understand," he said early in his speech, just as he said he loves “Hindu” which happens to be a majority religion and not a country.
“Under a Trump administration, we are going to become even better friends,” Trump said. “In fact, I’ll take the word ’even’ out because we are going to be best friends. There won’t be any relationship more important to us,” Trump said giving India BFF status and praising Narendra Modi even as carefully tutored sections of the audience held up placards that Trump loves to see.
Trump did his best to put on a brave face as his campaign hunkers down for a loss of possibly phenomenal proportions but his dejection with the sliding poll numbers was evident - his face gave it away.
He swung by in Edison after spending the better part of the day peddling the theory that the legitimacy of the U.S. presidential election is entirely questionable and vowing anew to jail Hillary Clinton if he's elected and throwing in a baseless insinuation his rival was on drugs in the last debate.
"The election is being rigged by corrupt media pushing completely false allegations and outright lies in an effort to elect her president," he said, referring to the several women who have come forward in recent days to say that Trump had groped or sexually assaulted them. He has denied the claims, calling the women liars.
Shalabh Kumar happily repeated the Trump denials, word for word.
In Edison, Trump spoke for just over 10 minutes and left in a haze of thuggish looking protection guards and limos before a luscious Malaika Arora lit up the stage and had hundreds of admirers aching for more.
“Who cares what Trump says, we came for Prabhudeva and Malaika,” say Deepti and Sanjay Reddy, a techie couple from the neighborhood.
“Have you bet on the wrong candidate,” we asked Shalabh Kumar about Trump and his floundering campaign.
“What do you mean, betting? Trump’s campaign is not in a tailspin. That has been made up by the Clinton News Network CNN,” he blurted out, parroting Trump’s favourite lines.
“Our representation in political life is much lower than our potential and we need to be able to influence policy,” Kumar said but chose not to elaborate why 'Hindu Americans' and not 'Indian Americans', considering there are 3 million Indians in all in the US.
Kumar used the captive audience night to showcase, among other trivia, videos of how helicopters flew in a V formation for his son’s wedding. How that has anything to do with either Indian or Hindu clout is hard to guess but the show was certainly Trumpian in its set pieces.
Posters screaming “Trump for faster green cards”, “Trump for H1B visas” were handed out well in advance to sections of the crowd willing to play to the TV cameras. Outside, sloganeering groups were primed to chant “Lock her up! Lock her up!” referring to Hillary Clinton.
Despite the comic relief, old timers among US correspondents say no other Indian ethnic community has put together such an extravagant shtick and brought in a presidential candidate and actually pulled it off like Shalabh Kumar did Saturday night.
“I am a big fan of Hindu and I am a big fan of India. Big, big fan,” Trump told the crowd in a speech that lasted just over 10 minutes.
If Trump mistook all of India for Hindu or that’s what he was fed before taking the stage, it worked well for the Hindu Republican Coalition.
Depite Trump’s terrible history with women, Kumar attempted to sell “family values” as a common link between Hindus and Republicans and got nowhere.
Kumar also sold himself as the first Indian Republican in America, with a grainy picture of himself and Ronald Reagan playing on screen as proof of association.
Creating divisions within America is nothing new to Trump and he left the stage saying “I love Hindus” after some generous prodding. As Trump walked away, the irony of one of his favorite Rolling Stones songs booming on the megaphones seeped into the cold night air - "You can’t always get what you want".