Trump Campaign Will Open Storefronts in Swing States to Reach Black Voters

WASHINGTON — In its latest attempt to win over African-American voters, President Trump’s 2020 campaign said Wednesday it would lease 15 retail properties in predominantly black neighborhoods across swing states like Florida and Pennsylvania, where it will build welcoming “community centers” that sell merchandise, register voters and spread the word about Trump policies that have helped black communities.

On Wednesday afternoon, senior Trump campaign officials offered reporters a tour through a mock-up storefront it built inside its campaign headquarters in Arlington, Va.

Hoodies bearing the slogan “WOKE” were on display for sale in the mock community center. A large television screen played a stream of testimonials from black voters talking about why they supported Mr. Trump. Posters featuring smiling African-American supporters highlighted the administration’s work overhauling the criminal justice system, its funding of historically black colleges and universities, and the country’s unemployment rate, the lowest in 50 years.

Colorful pamphlets advertised Mr. Trump as “a builder of communities and the American Dream,” and a rendering showed a possible exterior design for a center inside of what looked like a mall.

The centers, which will be about the size of a small storefront, are planned for Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa, and Miami, Fla.; Atlanta, Ga.; Detroit, Mich.; Columbus and Cleveland, Ohio; Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, Pa.; Charlotte, Raleigh and Greensboro, N.C.; and Milwaukee, Wis.

“It’s a woke concept,” said Katrina Pierson, a senior campaign adviser. “For decades you have had a community that has been controlled by the Democratic Party. Republicans haven’t even gone in to deliver their message.”

Mr. Trump won just 8 percent of African-American voters in the 2016 election. Senior campaign officials said they are spending millions of dollars on the new retail spaces in order to increase his support among black voters. Trump advisers say they do not need to increase his support significantly to make a difference in a handful of critical battleground states in November.

The plan is the latest outreach from the Trump campaign to court African-Americans. Trump advisers often point to unemployment data as his main selling point.

But even some Trump advisers concede that the president’s team has tactics but not a strategy when it comes to appealing to black voters, many of whom have recoiled from his rhetoric and some of his policies, such as cuts to social safety net programs.

“He clearly is very desperate for black support,” said Adrianne Shropshire, executive director of BlackPAC, a progressive group. “This is not something we’ve ever seen before, in terms of opening offices in black communities. There is a reality that we know that some black voters are going to vote for Trump.”

The outreach is not guaranteed to help the president. Ms. Shropshire said that a recent internal poll conducted by her organization showed that about one-third of respondents had been contacted in some way by the Trump campaign. But, she said, “the majority of folks in our survey said the contact made them less likely to vote for Trump.”

Part of the disconnect, she said, was that the message about a surging economy and low unemployment rate was at odds with many people’s lived experience of holding multiple jobs but still struggling to be financially stable.

And then there’s the elephant in the room when it comes to Mr. Trump and black support. “A number of our polls and other national polls show that black voters simply think he’s a racist,” Ms. Shropshire said. “You can show up, but most people believe you’re a racist and that you fundamentally don’t have the interests of black people at heart.”

Brad Parscale, Mr. Trump’s campaign manager, however, said all of the outreach has already increased support.

“At a minimum, we’re double where we were in 2016,” he said on Wednesday.

Later, the Republican National Committee said it was funding the outreach centers, which officials said would help Republicans up and down the ballot. Senior campaign officials said they were also considering opening Latinos for Trump offices down the line.

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