President Donald Trump returned to an increasingly competitive Georgia Friday to make an economic pitch to Black voters.
“When I ran for president four years ago, I looked at the dismal and shameful record of the Democrat Party and asked Black Americans ‘What the hell do you have to lose?’” Trump said. “People said you shouldn’t use the word hell. I said it’s more descriptive, it doesn’t work as well without it. Today I want to share what you have to gain from voting Republican on Nov. 3.”
In his third trip to Georgia since March, the president unveiled his platform for Black economic empowerment, which he calls the “Platinum Plan.” Last fall, he kicked off his “Black Voices for Trump” coalition at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta.
The platform includes tax cuts for minority-owned businesses, support for school choice and an increase in drug rehab programs as an alternative to incarceration.
The president’s campaign brought a host of Black speakers to the podium who said they benefited from policies supported by Trump, including school choice and criminal justice reform.
U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson spoke on the president’s behalf, as did former NFL and University of Georgia football star Herschel Walker. Numerous Georgia elected officials were present as well, including Gov. Brian Kemp, Sen. David Perdue, Sen. Kelly Loeffler and her opponent, U.S. Rep. Doug Collins of Gainesville.
Trump joked with Loeffler and Collins about their rivalry.
“I congratulate you both, you’re really fighting the good fight, I will say that,” he said. “You know what? They’re going to be in there fighting, fighting, don’t anybody get out. Everybody’s going to come vote for one of them, and the only thing I know for sure, they’re all going to vote for me.”
The president’s remark drew laughter from the crowd, but his campaign staff likely believes they cannot take Georgia votes for granted. Several recent polls show him neck-and-neck with former Vice President and Democratic nominee Joe Biden. Georgia has not voted for a Democratic president since 1992.
The president spoke in Cobb County, which was until recently a Republican stronghold. Trump narrowly lost the suburban Atlanta county to Hillary Clinton in 2016. Two years later, the Cobb County state legislative delegation flipped to a Democratic majority. Suburban metro Atlanta voters will be vital for either Trump or Biden to win the White House.
And if polls are any indication, Trump will have his work cut out for him to win a significant portion of the Black vote.
Only 10% of Black voters favored Trump in a Morning Consult poll conducted earlier this month. Another 7% are undecided, and 84% prefer Biden.
Convincing young, Black suburban voters to take a more skeptical look at the Democratic Party could be key for Republicans to hang onto the suburban vote, said DeAnna Harris, president of the Cobb County Young Republicans.
An economic message is the way to reach these voters, Harris said, touting an increased employment rate and decreased poverty rate under Trump’s presidency.
“I think real facts, things that have happened for people, especially small business owners like myself, the way things have been going for us economy-wise, I think that will drive the vote for him,” she said.
“There’s a lot of things going on in the media and issues with our communities, but if people just kind of stick to the facts and look at what they know, how their life is advancing, how they’re doing better in business or having more people employed, more companies coming to Georgia, I think that can help drive the vote.”
Trump rallied the largely Black crowd gathered at the Cobb Galleria with what he said are contrasts between himself and Democrats, a party he said makes promises to Black people but does not deliver.
“No one in Washington politics today has done more to hurt black Americans than Joe Biden,” he said.
Trump cited Biden’s support of a 1994 crime bill and his statement that people who can’t decide between Trump and Biden “ain’t Black” as evidence that he is out of touch with Black Americans.
“Joe Biden should not be demanding your support, he should be begging for your forgiveness,” Trump said.
That line brought cheers from the crowd, but the biggest applause line came when Trump pledged to appoint a Supreme Court Justice to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, drawing chants of “Fill that seat.”
Trump also earned big applause when he railed against the Black Lives Matter movement that spurred growing protests across the country, especially after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.
“In recent months, our nation has grieved the tragic deaths of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery. Our hearts break for their families, and for all families who have lost a loved one, especially when it’s so senseless” he said. “But we can never allow mob rule. To have safety, to have prosperity, to have everything you want to have, we must ensure the rule of law.”
The ballroom at the Cobb Galleria was filled with about 300 Trump die-hards of diverse backgrounds, including nurse and business owner Berita Randon, who lives in Atlanta.
“He’s continuing the empowerment of Black people and changing the course the Democrats have put us on for 60 years with no results, doing the same thing over and over again, voting for the same policies over and over again without any results,” Randon said. “What Donald Trump has done in three years, the Democratic Party has failed to do in 60 in the inner cities.”
Trumps lagging poll numbers among African Americans do not bother Linda Lee Tarver, a member of the advisory board for Black Voices for Trump.
Democratic voters are not excited to vote for Biden, she said, and many Black voters are afraid to be vocal about their support for the president.
“I don’t believe the polls,” she said. “I’ll believe it when I see the votes coming in. There are people, especially who look like me, who are afraid to say that they’re voting for Donald Trump because of retribution, friends not speaking to me, family members, some other people, because of this president and the issues of losing relationships or maybe losing your job because you’re voting for him.”
State Rep. Erick Allen, whose district includes the venue where Trump spoke, dismissed the president’s pitch as misguided.
“I don’t think the Black vote can be bought, and that we can ignore all the things he’s said and done by him promising some economic gains,” he said. “Black America has not done exponentially better under this president. We are still lagging behind in so many areas compared to other groups in the country, and I just think it’s completely tone-deaf and pandering at this point.”
Biden’s campaign shot back against Trump’s message, citing the disproportionate COVID-19 death rate among Black Georgians as well as high numbers of unemployed and uninsured Black Georgians.
“We are in a battle for the soul of our nation and the stakes of this election could not be higher,” Biden said in a statement. “Congressman John Lewis understood that part of being an American means doing what we can, with the time we have, to achieve the promise of our nation — that we are all created equal and deserve to be treated equally.
“As President, I will work to advance racial equity across the American economy and build back better. I promise to fight for Black working families and direct real investments to advance racial equity as part of our nation’s economic recovery.”