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Tim Scott, a potential Trump vice president, launches a $14 million outreach effort for minority voters

Donald Trump and Tim Scott

FILE – Republican presidential candidate, former President Donald Trump, listens as Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., speaks at an evening primary party at the South Carolina State Fairgrounds in Columbia, S.C., Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. A top ally of former President Donald Trump — and a potential running mate — is launching a new effort to win over black and other nonwhite working-class voters, who he says could be the deciding factor in the November election. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, the only black Republican in the Senate, will lead a $14 million campaign targeting minority voters in seven key swing states. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, file)

(AP) – A top ally and potential running mate of former President Donald Trump is launching a new effort to win over Black and other nonwhite working-class voters, who he says could be the deciding factor in the November election.

South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, the only black Republican in the Senate, will lead a $14 million campaign targeting minority voters in seven key swing states.

Scott’s push comes as Trump’s campaign steps up its own outreach efforts to Hispanic and Black voters, especially Black men, in his expected rematch against President Joe Biden. And it gives Scott, one of several Republicans being vetted for the vice presidency, a new platform to demonstrate his loyalty — and usefulness — to the presumptive Republican nominee.

Scott says that with Trump at the top, he believes Republicans have a unique opportunity to cement Democrats’ historic dominance among minority voters. Polls show many Black and other nonwhite adults are dissatisfied with Biden’s performance, though Trump could face an uphill battle to win them over given his own unpopularity with those groups.

“To the chagrin of many people, there is no doubt that African American men are wide open to a political shift away from partisanship,” Scott said as he briefed reporters on the efforts in Washington this week.

The new campaign will be led by Scott’s Great Opportunity PAC, which was formed after he suspended his campaign for the GOP nomination last year. Aides say the group will work to woo more than 1 million potential voters it has identified in Georgia, North Carolina, Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan, Nevada and Pennsylvania.

The campaign will include canvassing, digital advertising, direct mail, events and appearances by Scott and other elected officials in minority communities that Scott says Republicans have too often avoided.

While it remains separate from Trump’s campaign, aides said Scott recently met with Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Whatley and co-chair Lara Trump to brief them on his plans.

“We will fight for and earn the votes of Black and Brown voters, helping Donald J. Trump win the presidency and Republicans regain the House and Senate,” reads a memo from Jennifer DeCasper, who runs Scott’s campaign before 2024.

Trump has hosted a number of events in recent weeks targeting these groups, including a rally in New York’s South Bronx and a Wednesday night dinner with students and alumni from historically black colleges and universities at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach. , Florida.

At the same time, national Democrats are investing heavily in preventing Trump from making inroads into a core constituency. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, the first Black vice president, launched a campaign last week to reach Black voters by highlighting their efforts to boost funding for those schools, cancel federal student debt and issue pardons grant to those convicted of simple marijuana possession.

Biden also accused Trump of sowing “anger, resentment and hatred” and pointed to Trump’s history of controversies surrounding race, from suing his real estate company for alleged discrimination against Black tenants to his comments following the death of George Floyd, a Black man murdered by police.

Scott’s group believes a fundamental realignment is underway. It notes that in 2016, Trump won large swaths of white working-class voters who once formed the heart of Democrats’ Rust Belt base. Now it says it sees signs of a broader shift in which more non-white working-class voters could also turn to Trump.

Even a small shift of just a few percentage points with minority voters could make the difference in what is expected to be an exceptionally close election, decided in a handful of battleground states.

Indeed, many Black and Hispanic adults are dissatisfied with Biden’s performance as president. Biden’s approval among Black adults has fallen from 94% when he took office to 55% in March, according to surveys from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Among Hispanic adults, the rate fell from 70% to 32% over the same period.

But a February AP-NORC poll found that only about a quarter of Black adults had a positive view of Trump, which could make it harder for him to capitalize on Biden’s shortcomings. Hispanics are more evenly divided: About half, 52%, have an unfavorable view of both presumptive nominees.

According to AP VoteCast, a comprehensive national survey of the electorate, non-white voters overwhelmingly supported Biden in 2020, regardless of their education level. About a quarter of non-white voters supported Trump that year.

According to the survey, Hispanic voters without a college degree were slightly more likely than other non-white voters to support Trump in 2020, but they still largely supported Biden. There was no education gap for Black voters in 2020. About 9 in 10 black voters with or without a college degree supported Biden. Only about 1 in 10 supported Trump.

Nevertheless, Scott argues that Trump’s term was better for black Americans, citing policies like a bipartisan criminal justice reform package that Trump signed into law and his funding for historically black colleges and universities. Voters, he said, are angry and looking for better economic conditions, safer neighborhoods and better schools.

“We’ve seen a lot of seed germinating in this soil,” he said. “So if the Republican Party has the common sense and the good marketing machine — and, frankly, a good microphone — someone who is good at speaking into that microphone — we have a very strong chance of turning this election around. the previous elections.”

That could mean, Scott allies say, that the senator is on Trump’s ticket.

Many of those on Trump’s vice-presidential shortlist have been vying for favor as the Republican National Convention, where Trump has said he could unveil his pick, approaches. Several contenders traveled to New York to appear with Trump at his criminal hush-money trial, with many echoing his attacks on the criminal justice system.

Scott has made several of his own appearances with Trump, including at fundraisers, and regularly defends him on television. Trump joked that Scott has been a much better surrogate for the former president’s campaign than he was as a candidate.

Trump could be emboldened, Scott pointed out, by his guilty verdict in New York on 34 charges of falsifying corporate records in a scheme to cover up hush money payments to a porn actor during his 2016 campaign.

“On the 34 points, I honestly think last week’s decision actually helps drive more people into the Republican Party,” he said, pointing to the influx of campaign contributions that poured in after Trump became the first former president and presumptive major. party nominee in US history to be convicted of felony crimes.

He said black men in particular are “fed up” with what they see as a “two-tiered justice system.”

“I think African-American men in particular have had a lot of experiences with the justice system, but not all of it has been good. And that’s why many African American men, when they’ve seen an injustice so blatant happening, have said, “You know what? I am going to take a closer look at the Republican Party and the Republican Party,” he claimed.

Trump had raised a similar issue earlier this year at a black conservative gala in Scott’s home state of South Carolina. He then told the audience that his criminal charges had strengthened his support among black Americans, likening his legal jeopardy to the historical legacy of anti-black bias in the American legal system.

The comment was one of several criticized as racist or tone-deaf as Trump made his speech.

Pressed on these claims, Scott instead pointed to some of Biden’s past controversial comments on race, including criticism from his now vice president during the 2020 campaign over his position on school buses as a means to achieve desegregation.

“Honestly, I’ll take that fight any day of the week,” he said.

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