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Trump makes fresh appeal to Black voters as he campaigns in Detroit

By Eric Bradner, Ali Main and Veronica Stracqualursi, CNN

(CNN) — Donald Trump’s campaign on Saturday launched a coalition group targeting Black voters as the former president campaigned in Detroit in an effort to win over a segment of the electorate that has long overwhelmingly backed Democrats.

Trump held a community roundtable at the predominantly Black 180 Church in Detroit, where he was joined by two Black Republicans — Florida Rep. Byron Donalds and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson — who were part of the launch of the “Black Americans for Trump” group.

Donalds and Carson are among several candidates said to be under consideration to be Trump’s running mate. The former president praised Donalds on Saturday as an “incredible guy.”

“I noticed he happened to be on the list of potential vice presidents. Would anybody like to see him as vice president?” Trump asked the crowd. He later added that he thinks Donalds would be “a good one, too.”

“He’s on a list, by the way. I don’t know if he’s going to make it. But he’s on a list of a few people, right? Not too many people,” Trump said.

Trump’s attempts to court Black voters come as polls show that Black men are more open to supporting the Republican nominee in this year’s election than they have historically been. A New York Times/Siena College survey of battleground states released last month found Trump winning more than 20% of Black voters in a two-way matchup with Biden, which would amount to a historic high if it translates to votes in November. Trump won roughly 1 in 10 Black voters nationally in 2020, according to multiple estimates, including 12% in CNN’s exit poll.

While President Joe Biden is likely to win Black voters by a large margin, the siphoning away of even a modicum of support by Trump could tilt the outcome in several battleground states – including Michigan, Georgia and Pennsylvania.

Trump has long criticized cities with sizable Black populations. In 2019, he referred to a predominantly Black congressional district in Baltimore as a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess.” In a closed-door meeting with House Republicans this week in Washington, he reportedly described Milwaukee — where the GOP will hold its convention in August — as “horrible.” (The Trump campaign said the former president “was talking about how terrible crime and voter fraud are” in Wisconsin’s largest city.)

In 2016, Trump said Democrats had long failed Black voters and asked for their votes, famously saying: “What the hell do you have to lose?”

Trump has pushed back on accusations of racism, telling Semafor in a recent interview that he has “so many Black friends” who would not support him if they believed he was racist — a comment the Biden campaign highlighted Saturday in its response to Trump’s Black coalition launch.

“Donald Trump thinks the fact that he has ‘many Black friends’ excuses an entire lifetime of denigrating and disrespecting Black Americans, but Black voters know better – and Trump’s eleventh hour attempt at Black ‘outreach’ isn’t fooling anyone,” Jasmine Harris, the Biden campaign’s director of Black media, said in a statement.

Trump on Saturday also cited Biden’s role as a US senator in crafting the 1994 crime bill, falsely accusing his opponent of making the same remark Trump once chided Hillary Clinton for making.

“Biden wrote the devastating 1994 crime bill, talking about ‘super predators.’ That was Biden. You know, he walks around now talking about the Black vote. He’s the king of the ‘super predators,’” Trump said during the roundtable discussion.

As CNN has previously noted, Biden did not publicly deploy or endorse the phrase “super predators.” Biden did warn in a 1993 speech of “predators on our streets” who were “beyond the pale” in support of the crime bill. But he used the phrase “super predators” only to reject the theory – arguing in a 1997 speech that the vast majority of youth involved with the criminal justice system were not violent and “not the so-called super predators.”

Trump wrote in a 2000 book that he supported tougher sentencing and street policing and warned of “wolf packs” of young criminals roaming the streets – and he cited a since-discredited statistical analysis that was linked to the “super predator” crime theory.

As he has before, Trump claimed Saturday that he’s done “more for the Black population than any American president since Abraham Lincoln,” while arguing that Biden had done “nothing” for the Black community and was “all talk.”

Trump later spoke at a convention hosted by Turning Point Action in Detroit. Before the former president took the stage at the conservative gathering, Carson touted his onetime boss’s ability to engage with Black communities.

“President Trump is not your typical politician,” Carson said. “He doesn’t run around with his finger in the air seeing which way the wind is blowing.”

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