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Trump gambles to woo Black voters

​A woman attends a campaign rally by former President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at Crotona Park in the Bronx borough of New York City, on May 23, 2024.

A woman attends a campaign rally by former President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at Crotona Park in the Bronx borough of New York City, on May 23, 2024.

REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

This GZERO 2024 election series looks at America’s changing voting patterns, bloc by bloc.


Donald Trump was trapped in New York City until the jury reached a verdict in his hush money trial last week, but he made the most of his time in his hometown – visiting a bodega in Harlem, dropping by a construction site, hosting a photo op at a local firehouse, and becoming the first Republican candidate to host a campaign rally in New York City since Ronald Reagan.

His choice of rally location – a deep-blue district in the Bronx where 95% of the population is Black or Hispanic and 35% live below the poverty line – was no accident. While Black voters remain the most loyal bloc of the Democratic coalition that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris stitched together four years ago, that support appears to be waning.

Six months before the election, Trump has picked up as much as 18% of the Black vote — up from 8% in 2020 and 6% in 2016. Polls can only tell us so much this far out from the election, but a recent poll conducted by the University of Chicago found that just 33% of young Black people would vote for Biden if the election were held today. While the poll showed significant undecided and third-party sentiment – only 23% said they would support Trump – it's undeniably a plummet from the 80% of young Black voters supporting Biden in 2020.

Trump’s message to Black voters is that Democrats have long taken their vote for granted and that they were better off – in particular from an economic standpoint – under his administration than under Biden’s. With November’s election predicted to be decided by a few thousand votes in a couple of key states, it matters that Trump is trying, and succeeding, to make inroads with voters of color.

At his rally in the Bronx on May 23, Trump cast himself as a better president for Black and Hispanic voters, attacking Biden on the economy and immigration. He insisted “the biggest negative impact” of the flood of migrants to New York is “against our Black population and our Hispanic population who are losing their jobs, losing their housing, losing everything they can lose.” Many in the crowd responded by chanting, “Build the wall,” a reference to Trump’s push as president to build a US-Mexico border barrier.

“I’ve voted for Democrats in the Bronx up and down the ticket for my whole life,” rally attendee Daniella Martinez said. She still identifies as a Democrat but decided to hop on the Trump train because she worried the influx of migrants to the city was straining her daughter’s public school and making their neighborhood less safe. “But look where Democrats have got New York. I’m here because I am ready for a change.”

When pressed about whether Trump could be considered a change, given that he occupied the Oval Office just four years ago, Martinez said: “I didn’t have to work a second job four years ago. Any change from Biden’s economy is a change I am going to vote for.”

Since Trump’s guilty verdict last Thursday, he has compared his legal troubles to the unfairness that Black communities disproportionately face in the justice system. Tim Scott, the only Black Republican in the Senate, amplified this on CNN on Friday. “The reason we’re seeing so many African Americans come into the Trump campaign — two big things: jobs and justice,” he said. “As an African American born and raised in the Deep South who had concerns about our justice system as it relates to race, I’m now seeing it play out from a partisan perspective.”

Scott, who wants to be Trump’s vice president, has pledged $15 million of PAC money to Black voter outreach, arguing that Black men, in particular, could be key in securing Trump’s win. On Tuesday, Reps. Byron Donalds, of Florida, who is also rumored to be on Trump’s VP short list, and Wesley Hunt, of Texas, ventured into Philadelphia to make their pitch for Trump at an event billed as “Congress, Cognac, and Cigars.”

“We were better off under Republicans than we were Democrats,” Hunt said. “The reason why the Democrats have a hold on the Black community is because our parents’ parents’ parents keep telling us, ‘You got to vote Democrat. It’s up to us in this generation to say, ‘well, why?’”

But according to Eurasia Group’s US analyst Noah Daponte-Smith, what may matter more than Trump’s marginal gains with Black voters is that Biden is hemorrhaging their support.

“Biden is currently running 22 points behind his 2020 performance among Black voters, says Deponte-Smith. “There does seem to be a consensus among analysts and political scientists that the Black vote has steadily moved away from Democrats as we have exited the Obama era.”

But Biden is fighting back. The president has ridiculed Trump’s strategy, saying last week that Trump is “pandering and peddling lies and stereotypes for your vote, so he can win for himself, not for you.”

He and Vice President Kamala Harris also traveled to Philadelphia last Wednesday to launch “Black Voters for Biden-Harris” to bolster outreach efforts and engage Black voters. The campaign is an acknowledgment that Biden knows he needs to fight if he wants to keep the 92% majority of Black voters that were integral to his win in 2020.


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