“Saturday Night Live” is flexing its political muscle as the 2016 presidential race heads into the homestretch.
The long-running NBC show has provided some of the most memorable skits on presidential races and debates. Writers on the show have shown an uncanny ability to zero in on the weaknesses of White House hopefuls.
This year’s season premiere featured a powerhouse lineup, with veteran “SNL” host Alec Baldwin, hunched over and glowering as Republican nominee Donald Trump, hurling outdated racial epithets like “jazzman” and “Coltrane” at black NBC News anchor Lester Holt, portrayed by Michael Che.
Actress Kate McKinnon has been chewing the scenery on the Hillary Clinton beat for more than a year, portraying the Democratic nominee as a cackling, power-mad and emotionally vacant politician hell-bent on ruling from the White House at any cost.
The show over the weekend was its highest-rated debut since 2008.
Republicans are used to getting short shrift from the entertainment industry, but those interviewed by The Hill said “SNL” went out of its way to lean into its mockery of Trump.
“It isn’t some no-name actor on staff they assigned to play Trump,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell. “They brought in Alec Baldwin, who is clearly relishing the role because of his political views. It looked like he spent 10 years studying for this at Juilliard, and the commentary, particularly pertaining to African-Americans, was rough.”
And political watchers say it could have an impact. The audience of “SNL” skews younger, potentially energizing millennial voters who have been cool to Clinton so far.