Trump aims to win hearts (and votes) of black voters

President's campaign stressing criminal justice reforms

  • Joseph Darius Jaafari/PA Post
Happy Galentine’s Day, Context readers! Thanks to the fictional Parks & Rec character Leslie Knope, the day before Valentine’s is when we celebrate the people who mean most to us: our gal-pals (or best buds). Get your dinner reservations ready, grab a drink or bite with your friends, or just send a quick group text to your movie night crew telling them how much you care about them. (I’ve gone ahead and texted my local Mexican eatery owners that I love them; without consistent tacos, I just don’t know what I’d do.) And if you’re a member of a community who maybe doesn’t share the same views as the rest? Well, today’s newsletter is dedicated to you, friend. — Joseph Darius Jaafari, staff writer

AP Photo/Elana Schor

In this Jan. 16, 2020, photo, from left, attendees of a black voter outreach event held by President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign at Philadelphia’s First Immanuel Baptist Church assemble for a group picture after the discussion. Trump’s reelection campaign is reaching out to black voters through one of their communities’ most important institutions — black churches. (AP Photo/Elana Schor)

How does President Donald Trump make inroads with communities that are not typical members of the Republican coalition? Or, to put it more bluntly, how can a president who famously said there were “very fine people on both sides” of the racist August 2017 rally in Charlottesville build support among voters of color?

In some of Philly’s black communities, Trump’s rhetoric doesn’t seem to be a problem. Support for Trump reached double digits among black men after the 2016 election. And it could reach that level or more in 2020 among voters of color who share the president’s views on social and economic issues.

The Philadelphia Inquirer published a story Wednesday about a congregation of Black North Philly residents gathering in a church to discuss why they were voting for Trump. And, put plainly, the congregation’s members explain that Trump’s policies outweigh his bombastic behavior.

“I’m telling folks that we need to reach out and we need to talk about the accomplishments and that’s how we bring folks in. It’s not personality-based, it’s performance based,” Calvin Tucker, chairman of the Philadelphia Black Republican Council, told the reporter.

Trump’s campaign is working hard for Black votes, on the theory that winning even just a few percentage points more support from the community would increase his chances at reelection (remember, he won Pa. and two other battleground states by very small margins).

Back in December, Politico reported that the Trump campaign had put $1 million behind an “initiative, dubbed ‘Black Voices’ … [that] included ads in black-run newspapers and on radio stations, volunteer training seminars and a kickoff event hosted by Trump in Atlanta.” Wall Street Journal columnist Jason L. Reilly noted that even a small bump could put him, “over the top.”

Trump’s Super Bowl ad focused on the commutated sentence of Alice Johnson, a 64-year-old black woman. The ad boldly recognized that criminal justice reform primarily affects Black populations: “Politicians talk about criminal justice reform. President Trump got it done.”

This isn’t too different from what we see in other communities. During the Democratic caucuses in 2016, I wrote about how some gay men and women viewed Trump favorably, calling him one of the most friendly candidates to the LGBTQ community.

We can definitely expect to see more stories like this as we get closer to November. (We’re already seeing it on the Democratic side, specifically with Pete Buttiegieg struggle to build support in the queer community, which is decidedly more progressive than him.)

What about you? Are you part of a community that doesn’t see eye-to-eye on a candidate? Let us know in our Listening Post. – Joseph Darius Jaafari

Best of the rest

Matt Rourke / AP Photo

Pennsylvania Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson County, at Gov. Wolf’s budget address in March. (AP Photo / Matt Rourke)

  • Surprise! Just three weeks after GOP House Speaker Mike Turzai announced he won’t run for reelection this year, his counterpart, Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, said the same. Scarnati represents the 25th District — 8 largely rural counties, 3 of which sit on the northern border with New York. Read the story by Katie Meyer and Ed Mahon. Also, there’s some good history in this story co-produced by Spotlight PA and The Caucus.

  • Absentee voting: Yesterday was the first day Pa. voters can register to cast their primary votes via absentee ballot. The early mail-in ballot was part of Gov. Tom Wolf’s efforts to increase voter participation. For more information on it, follow PA Post reporter Emily Previti’s work. She’s been covering everything voter-related the past year and will continue into the 2020 election. Also, the state’s top elections officer, Secretary of State Kathy Bookvar, was on Wednesday’s “Smart Talk” with WITF’s Scott LaMar. Listen here.

  • Looking into past mistakes: Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced yesterday that his office would launch a conviction integrity unit to review past convictions to see if mistakes were made in prosecutions and sentencing, Marc Levy with the AP reports. The move comes as Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner’s office builds a strong record of exonerations in the two years since he took office in 2018.

  • Paying off witnesses? Police allegedly paid a jailhouse witness thousands of dollars off the books to implicate Cheron Shelton, who is on trial for a mass shooting in Wilkinsburg in 2016. The Post-Gazette reported the details yesterday, which came from a motion for a mistrial. The judge denied the defense’s motion.

  • The debt is too high: Gov. Tom Wolf started his road-show tour of state universities to sell his proposal to shift funds from a state horse-racing fund to a new scholarship program. PA Post’s Ed Mahon has the details.

  • Veto pen: Gov. Wolf vetoed a bill that would have stopped his administration from closing two institutions for adults with developmental disabilities. WITF’s Brett Sholtis reports on the lawmakers who are fighting to keep the institutions open.

  • Landslide: Twelve families were stranded this week after a massive landslide forced them to evacuate from their homes in Washington County, WPXI reported. Residents blame the landslide on construction, but there is no official word yet on what caused it.

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