Trump campaign opening 15 community centers to reach black voters

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President Trump’s reelection campaign will open 15 community centers in major cities across the country over the next few weeks as it ramps up outreach to black voters, who have long been the bedrock of the Democratic Party.

The Hill viewed a prototype of one of the community centers inside the Trump campaign headquarters in Virginia.

The community centers will be manned by volunteers passing out literature that describes how Trump’s policies have benefited African Americans. There will be hats and T-shirts that say “Woke” and “Black Voices for Trump.” Big screen televisions will roll footage of testimonials from Trump’s black supporters. 

The first wave of offices will open in Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa and Miami, Fla.; Atlanta; Detroit; Columbus and Cleveland, Ohio; Philadelphia; Pittsburgh; Charlotte, Raleigh and Greensboro, N.C.; and Milwaukee.

The campaign hopes that doing basic retail politics and having a presence in those communities will provoke a sea change in the way black voters view Trump and the Republican Party.

Campaign officials said the new investments are driven by internal polling that shows the president getting a fresh look from African Americans. They believe that a broader political realignment has produced an opportunity for Republicans to make a new case to black voters about why they should reconsider their loyalty to the Democratic Party.

“You’re never going to get votes you don’t ask for,” said Jared Kushner, a senior adviser to the campaign. “Last time it was, ‘What the hell do you have to lose?’ Now you show them what they’ve gained from President Trump and what more they can gain if they get four more years of President Trump.”

Exit polls showed Trump getting about 8 percent support among black voters in 2016. The president will not win more black votes than his eventual Democratic challenger, but any gains around the margins could be meaningful as he seeks reelection.

Lower than expected turnout among black voters in major cities in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan helped Trump narrowly defeat Hillary Clinton in the former Democratic “blue wall” states in 2016.

Still, Trump faces an uphill climb to make meaningful gains.

The president has been dogged by a string of racially charged controversies in his first term, from his response to a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., to remarks he made about some African nations being “shithole countries.”

The latest NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll found that only 14 percent of black voters have a favorable view of Trump. A recent Hill-Harris X poll found that 85 percent of black voters would back the Democrat over Trump. A new survey from BlackPAC fund that 77 percent of African Americans view Trump as racist.

But the Trump campaign sees an opportunity to make the case that Democrats have taken black voters for granted.

The BlackPAC poll found that a majority of black voters, 54 percent, believe the Democratic Party is not paying close enough attention to their needs. The survey found that 70 percent of Democrats would vote for a generic Democrat, while 12 percent would support Trump and 12 percent would back a potential third-party candidate.

A Trump campaign official said their internal polling has found support among African Americans on the rise, particularly in the cities where the first wave of community centers will open.

The official put Trump’s black support in those cities in the 15 to 30 percent range.

“The Democratic Party has taken advantage of the black vote for a long time,” the campaign official said. “They’ve been able to get a high percentage of the vote. We’re able to communicate directly with a lot of these voters and they’re seeing the promises made in the past have not come true. A lot of the people who have promised them things have failed to live up to those promises.”

The Trump campaign intends to highlight the president’s policies at the community centers.

They point to criminal justice reform, investments in urban opportunity zones and historically black colleges, and low unemployment for black people as evidence of Trump’s commitment to policies that benefit African Americans.

The community centers are the latest in a series of efforts by the Trump campaign to reach black voters.

The campaign put millions of dollars behind a 60-second ad during the Super Bowl on Trump’s criminal justice reform success.

It has also amassed a team of dozens of surrogates to act as “black voices for Trump,” who have been holding community events on the ground in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

A campaign official said those events have been drawing crowds of between 80 and 100 people, and that they expect the crowds to grow as word-of-mouth builds.

“We see the numbers coming up in the polls and the demand on the ground when we do these types of events, so it’s really important that we take this next step and really bring those voters into the party,” senior campaign adviser Katrina Pierson said.

Tags Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Jared Kushner

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