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Jun 27, 2024, 1:46pm EDT
politics

‘It’s not going to happen’: Raphael Warnock says Trump’s bet on Black voters is a bust

Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz
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The News

ATLANTA, Ga. — If there’s an earthquake happening with Black voters, Sen. Raphael Warnock isn’t seeing it.

“This idea that throngs of Black folks are going to vote for Donald Trump, it’s just not true,” Warnock told Semafor in an interview on the eve of Thursday’s debate. “It’s not going to happen.”

For his part, Black voters ”recognize the existential threat that Donald Trump represents.” The top concern for Democrats this year is no different than prior elections in his state, which President Biden flipped in 2020: Turnout, turnout, turnout.

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“What we’ve got to do is help people see between now and November that this is going to be a close election, and if we don’t turn out, we could see this man, this dangerous man, back in the White House,” he said.

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Kadia’s view

Warnock has become a top surrogate for Biden in the state and in national media and he’s taken on that job with his usual sunniness and enthusiasm. Worries in the press about younger Black men drifting right or declining church attendance impacting turnout and engagement — none of it fazed him.

“What we’ve got to do, and what this President is committed to doing, is preaching the good news between now and November,” Warnock, who serves as pastor at the late Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, said.

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His prescriptions for Democrats closely mirrored the party line from the Biden campaign: Emphasize popular policies — like protecting the Affordable Care Act — and drag down Trump by portraying him as an anti-democratic megalomaniac.

“I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s debate because I think it’s going to be a good reminder for people of what they had in Donald Trump,” he said. “The man’s got 34 felony counts. He’s got 91 charges. He’s a little bit busy trying to take care of himself. And as I talk to Georgians in general and Black Georgians in particular, they’re thinking about their family. They’re thinking about their concerns.”

There’s definitely unease around the party, though. A new wave of lousy pre-debate polls for Biden included a New York Times/Siena poll showing Trump up 48-44 with likely voters — and hitting 26% with Black voters and 30% among registered Black voters. An outlier result with a small sample size, sure, but one of a number of surveys that have popped up showing Biden in a danger zone.

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A lot has changed since the last time Biden and Trump faced off. Looking back to that time, Warnock’s thoughts turned to the hundreds of thousands of people killed during the pandemic, which has long ago fallen out of the political conversation.

“What I remember is a feckless president standing in front of the American people, lying on a regular basis, every day, downplaying the tragic impact of all of this, saying that when it got warm, it was just going to go away, disappear like magic,” he said. “Well, it didn’t disappear like magic.”

Republicans are hopeful that the current issues showing up as top concerns in polls — immigration and cost-of-living, especially — are a lot more favorable to Trump.

Trump called into a campaign event at a Black barbershop in Atlanta on Wednesday to tick off a list of pre-pandemic accomplishments during his presidency — increased HBCU funding is a go-to, along with a historic low unemployment rate among Black people that’s since been surpassed under Biden — and introduce new policy aspirations. “I just came up with the concept, no tax on tips.”

But there were also signs at the event that bolstered Warnock’s case that Black voters remember Trump’s low moments and “are concerned about their democracy” — a major Biden theme that some Democrats want to de-emphasize.

Panelist Marc “KD” Boyd, 46, who runs a non-profit meant to empower young people, suggested Trump could be the wrong fit for Black voters who are growing disenchanted with Democrats.

“Trump might not be the messenger for Republicans to be able to get to these Black people that are now waking up and leaving the Democratic Party,” he said.

One of the “obvious” reasons he named: Jan. 6, an event that features in Biden campaign ads and speeches.

Later, Boyd told Semafor Republicans would have a “better shot” with Nikki Haley or members of Congress like Byron Donalds and Wesley Hunt, who hosted the event, as the face of the party.

“I think there’s a larger amount of Black people open to Republican ideals that’s just not open to him,” he said.

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Notable

  • I recently interviewed Trump at Mar-a-Lago about his appeal to Black men. Along the way, I spoke to some of his famous sports friends from the 1980s, including Mike Tyson, Lawrence Taylor, and Don King, and wrote about their influence on his worldview.
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