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Updated Jun 5, 2024, 5:52am EDT
politics

What Trump’s Black outreach looks like in Philly

Kadia Goba/Semafor
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The Scene

PHILADELPHIA — About a hundred Trump supporters, overwhelmingly Black men, gathered at The Cigar Code on Tuesday evening in North Philadelphia, filing into a smoke-filled room with tufted sofas for an informal chat with Reps. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., and Wesley Hunt, R-Texas, about the pivotal role they have to play in the election.

“Pennsylvania’s a swing state,” Hunt told Semafor. “It’s one of the most important states in this entire election. And so what we know is we could carve out between 25% and 30% of the Black male voters in Pennsylvania. What we’re trying to do is actually go fish where the fish are.”

The “Congress, Cognac, and Cigars” conversation, moderated by sports reporter Michele Tafoya, was tied to a kickoff event by the Trump campaign the same day it opened its first office in the city. President Biden has paid special attention to Philadelphia throughout his presidency and visited the previous week with Vice President Kamala Harris to warn Black voters that Trump was “peddling lies and stereotypes for your votes so he can win for himself, not for you.”

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Polling has shown Republicans have a significant opportunity to make gains with Black voters this cycle, but there’s also skepticism of their party’s ability to capitalize on it, especially after an uneven start to the RNC’s outreach operation. Donalds and Hunt were trying to show what a targeted, on-the-ground strategy might look like — perhaps proof of concept for a larger effort.

“It has not been a focus of our consultants,” Donalds told the group when Tafoya asked why Republicans struggle to reach Black communities. “You know, they’ve not thought that they could get Black votes, or that it would take too many campaign resources to get Black votes.”

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The View From ATTENDEES

Those who showed up to the event mostly cited inflation as their top concern, the topic Republicans have leaned on hardest along with immigration. But some also pointed to social issues.

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“Democrats have a vicious plan: LGBTQ,” Michael Blackwell, 60, said. “Trump will stop that shit. I’ve got nothing against it, but it’s going too far.”

One activist referenced the White House’s acknowledgment of Transgender Day of Visibility, which has a fixed March 31 date that fell on Easter this year, generating false accusations that the administration had chosen the timing to overlap with the Christian holiday. The White House also held its traditionally scheduled Easter programming.

“That struck Christians in the wrong way, especially when you talk about the Black community,” Quenton Jordan of the Black Conservative Federation told Semafor. “Most of them are heavily faith-based, whether that’s the Christian faith or with the Muslim faith, and so things like that don’t sit well.”

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While the event was billed towards men, some women attended as well: Roslyn Ross Williams, a staffer at a conservative grassroots organization who said she was there in a personal capacity, described becoming disillusioned with the Democratic Party over vaccine mandates.

“I felt like if they could choose to fight for a woman to have a right to choose to abort her child, I should have a right to say what I want in my body,” Williams said.

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The View From The Biden Campaign

“It’s no coincidence that Donald Trump, who spent his life discriminating against Black tenants and his career railing against the first Black president, has no Black voter outreach program to speak of,” Biden-Harris spokesperson Sarafina Chitika said in a statement. “Trump has made it clear how little he thinks of Black men: denigrating George Floyd, calling for the death penalty for the Central Park 5, and reportedly calling a Black finalist on the Apprentice the N-word while doubting that Americans would ‘buy’ that a Black man won his show. President Biden knows he has to earn — not ask for — every vote, and that’s exactly what our campaign is doing from now until November.”

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Notable

NBC News reported recently on the Biden campaign’s own outreach efforts.

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