In The Final Days Before The Election, Trump Pushes To Attract More Black Voters

Oct 28, 2020
Originally published on October 28, 2020 6:23 pm
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President Trump likes to say he's the least racist person around. It's part of his last big push to attract more Black voters in the final days before the election. NPR's Ayesha Rascoe takes a look at whether that message has gained any traction.

AYESHA RASCOE, BYLINE: President Trump's closing message to Black Americans has been less about him and more about his Democratic opponent. Even when Trump unveiled his second-term agenda for Black voters called the Platinum Plan, he spent most of his time bashing Joe Biden. Here's a taste of how he name-checked Biden more than 20 times.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I've spent the last four years reversing the horrible damage Joe Biden inflicted on the Black community over 47...

No one in Washington politics today has done more to hurt Black Americans than Joe Biden.

Biden should not be demanding your support. He should be begging for your forgiveness. He really should be.

RASCOE: Critics say this is more about discouraging Democratic voters than it is about converting them to Trump. The campaign says that's not the intent. Adviser Katrina Pierson says Trump is just making the case he's done a better job for African Americans.

KATRINA PIERSON: We hear this rhetoric a lot that President Trump's - for some reason doesn't support Black and brown Americans when, in fact, our president has done more than any other president in our lifetime to help empower a great opportunity.

RASCOE: Pierson says the campaign has put real resources into reaching Black voters. They spent $20 million on outreach, including a Super Bowl ad and door-knocking. And they opened 17 field offices in Black neighborhoods in swing states.

No one expects Trump to flip Black voters, who overwhelmingly vote Democrat. The message may be getting through to some, especially young voters. The website FiveThirtyEight crunched the numbers and found that support from younger voters for Trump was at 21%, up from 10% in 2016. But that segment of voters is tricky for Trump.

THEODORE JOHNSON: That's the most unreliable part of the Black electorate.

RASCOE: That's Theodore Johnson of the Brennan Center for Justice. He studies the role of race in elections. He says older Black voters show up, and they organize others. Polls also show that they intensely dislike Trump.

JOHNSON: To the extent Donald Trump is making inroads with younger Black voters, they are more likely those voters who are already going to vote Republican or those voters who traditionally don't vote at all, and they're sort of disengaged.

RASCOE: Trump didn't do well with Black voters in 2016. He only received 8% of their vote. The only modern Republicans who did worse ran against the first Black president, Barack Obama. The new increase in support for Trump may be Black Republicans coming home.

There is another group that's interested. Trump also polls better with Black men. That's why the campaign has highlighted former athletes who backed Trump and even some big-name male rappers, like 50 Cent, who complained that Biden would raise taxes and briefly expressed support for Trump. 50 Cent represents the type of Black male voter more likely to find Trump appealing. Here's Chryl Laird, an expert on Black political behavior.

CHRYL LAIRD: Clearly, his monetary gains and his monetary goals outweighs his views on where the Black community is or what Black people even think of him. And he said so.

RASCOE: And remember Trump's Platinum Plan? Another Black rapper, Ice Cube, helped him work on that. Laird says Ice Cube's involvement helps Trump push back on accusations he's racist. But as for Ice Cube, he told Fox News Sunday that he's willing to deal with whoever will help Black people.

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ICE CUBE: You know, my daddy told me long time ago, no matter who's the president, you got to get up and go to work in the morning and always remember that. So no matter who's the president, I'm going to get up and go to work in the morning.

RASCOE: But even though the campaign worked with the rapper, Ice Cube said they still haven't secured his vote. He said he's still undecided.

Ayesha Rascoe, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.