President Donald Trump's re-election campaign is placing more emphasis on winning black voters in 2020, having already spent $1 million on ads and outreach. But even those involved in the campaign understand it will be an uphill battle for a president who only won 8% of the black vote in 2016.
Still, it might only take a few percentage points increase to make a significant difference in some key states — and that's all the campaign is looking for, Politico reported.
Florida is a case study in how a small shift in the black vote can make a big difference in a key battleground. According to exit polls, black voters made up 14 percent of the electorate in Florida in 2016, and Trump won just 8 percent of them. Had Trump received 12 percent, it would have netted him more than 50,000 votes, roughly half of his total margin of victory in the state.
"It's not about whether or not he can change enough minds to get him to 98 percent of the black vote," said Paris Dennard, a Republican strategist who is advising the Trump campaign on the effort. "You can move the needle ever so slightly in certain cities and certain counties."
Democrats view the effort differently, suspecting that the Trump campaign is less concerned with winning black voters to Trump than they are with convincing them not to vote for a Democrat.
"The end goal is to create doubt in the minds of black voters, doubt about the Democratic Party and doubts about the Democratic nominee," Adrianne Shropshire, executive director of Black PAC, told Politico. "It really is about suppressing the black vote more than it is about bringing black voters out to support Trump."
The effort includes the practical and obvious strategy of emphasizing record-low black unemployment rates, criminal justice reform, and Trump's support for historically black colleges and universities.
It also includes the somewhat heavy-handed encouragement to black voters to text "woke" to a number to receive campaign updates (the broader campaign simply asks voters to text in "Trump"). Whatever it takes to make the challenging push toward winning a double-figure percentage of the black vote.
"It's going to be tough work," said campaign adviser Katrina Pierson, who narrates television ads for the black outreach effort. "No one thinks it's going to be easy."