Are Republicans Fooling Themselves Into Thinking Trump Will Attract Black Support?
Date Posted: Thursday, March 28th, 2019
Republicans are confident that Trump in 2020 can pick up support among black voters and that this overwhelmingly Democratic bloc could even provide Trump the winning edge in key swing states.
“I can give an unqualified ‘yes’ on the idea that the president will be more popular on Election Day with blacks in 2020 than he was in 2016,” said Horace Cooper of Project 21 Black Leadership Network, a conservative public policy group. He pointed to the African-American unemployment rate, which reached a record low in 2018 of 5.9 percent, and the large number of African-Americans who no longer need food stamps under Trump.
African-Americans have reliably voted Democratic since 1948, a trend that is unlikely to change. But a Morning Consult poll taken March 15 shows Trump’s approval rating among blacks sits at 12 percent, four percentage points higher than the eight percent of black Americans who voted for Trump in 2016.
And according to Cooper, a two or three percent shift in the black vote in certain states, such as Wisconsin, Florida and Texas, could make a big difference in the election — though Cooper predicted an increase of four to five percent of the black vote for Trump, which “would put between four and six more states in play that Trump didn’t carry last time.”
Pennsylvania and Michigan are other states with relatively large African-American populations where the vote was about as close as it could be in 2016, with Trump barely winning.
A top political operative working on behalf of Trump also highlighted the importance of swing states.
“If he’s even able to peel off one or two points, that could be enough to swing a state like Wisconsin, and that could make a big difference,” the operative said.
The operative argued that if Trump can maintain a strong economy and capitalize on the success of criminal justice reform legislation he signed in December, an important issue among black voters that is “very easy to market,” then he has a shot at getting enough of the black vote to help swing the election.
Republican National Committee spokesman Steve Guest said 2020 would be a “clear choice” for Americans.
“Our plan remains to go after every single vote,” he said. He said the RNC has held and continues to hold tax reform panels, small business workshops, home buyers’ workshops, and other events in several states, which he said help “build and strengthen relationships with the African American community.”
A senior White House official told the Examiner that the president has not received enough credit for policies that have helped African-Americans.
“The media hasn’t always covered his work and outreach with African Americans and other minorities,” the official said. “It would be great if people would cover some of the work that we’ve done.”
Among these accomplishments, in addition to criminal justice reform and a record-low black unemployment rate, are hurricane loan forgiveness for historically black colleges and universities and investment in "opportunity zones" to help low-income communities. Trump has also set aside $1 billion in his 2020 budget for child care access in underserved populations.
“President Trump’s incredible record of achievement and vision for making America even greater should appeal to all voters, whomever they are,” Trump campaign press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said. “The results are undeniable.”
Still, veteran Democratic strategist and pollster Celinda Lake remained highly skeptical of Trump’s ability to win support from black voters.
“I don’t think he’s going to see any increase,” Lake said, adding that criminal justice reform passed because Democrats supported it. She rejected claims that the economy is improving for African-Americans, noting that a large racial wealth gap remains. She also said Trump’s “overt racism” is so great that it mutes any advantages his policies might bring.
A top Democratic operative said Trump has made a “good first step,” but has not done enough on certain issues.
“They feel Trump hasn’t earned their vote,” the Democrat said, adding that many black voters already don’t like the president because of his rhetoric. “I think we could see a scenario where some people don’t vote at the polls, but I don’t see the vote for Donald Trump increasing.”
But former Florida Republican Rep. Allen West believes there is an “awakening” in the black community. He said more black Americans are starting to reject what he called the economically dependent “slave mentality” of the progressive Left, including the push for reparations.
“It’s about economic enslavement, and this is what they have been very effective in doing, in creating a 21st-century economic plantation that I think more and more black Americans are seeing as reprehensible,” West said.
Even if black voters simply like Trump enough not to come out and vote for his opponent, that could help the president.
Pollster Jonathan Collins, who works with the African American Research Collaborative, said outcomes in many states would come down to “whether there is enthusiasm or apathy” among voters. Collins said possible voter apathy in 2020 would hurt Democrats and help Trump’s chances, but he said he still thought it would be very difficult for Trump to gain black support in 2020.
“I think Trump over-performed in 2016,” Collins said.
Republican pollster Glen Bolger said it would be a “tall order” for Trump to increase black support if Democrats nominate a black candidate. But he also noted that “you don’t have to hit huge numbers to have a huge impact,” even among black women, who voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton in 2016.
“An incremental gain of a few points could help him,” Bolger said. “Four to seven or eight percent of African American women could make a difference in a couple of key electoral college states.”
Date Posted: Thursday, March 28th, 2019 , Total Page Views: 5433