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Republicans boost efforts to woo minority voters for Trump

WASHINGTON — The Republican National Committee is working alongside President Donald Trump's campaign to recruit Black, Latino and Asian-Pacific American voters to support his reelection even as the president has faced criticism for stoking racial tensions and culture wars.

The groups are reaching out directly to potential voters and the RNC is also targeting minority-focused media outlets to tout Trump's message. In recent weeks it placed op-eds in Spanish and Asian outlets to tout the start of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement on trade.

The efforts are an extension of a Republican report after the 2012 election that concluded the party needed to attract more minorities to expand its base, according to party officials. In 2016 against Hillary Clinton, Trump drew only 8% of the Black vote, 28% of the Latino vote and 27% of the Asian vote.

Republicans are mindful that Trump won several states by slim margins and see any improvement this November as a chance to help in his fight against Joe Biden, who is leading in polls nationally and in battleground states.

"It's really about building the base of the party," Swati Singh, strategic initiatives director for the RNC, said. "We're recruiting volunteers that are taking the message to their communities."

Hispanics will account for about 13.3% of the electorate in 2020, nearly double the levels in 2000, according to the Pew Research Center. Blacks will comprise 12.5% of the electorate and Asians 4.7%, according to Pew.A June New York Times-Siena College poll, conducted June 17-June 22, showed that only 5% of Blacks would vote for Trump and 25% of Hispanics would do so, a drop from 2016. The poll showed Biden getting 50% of votes from other non-whites.

The RNC is training volunteers who knock on doors, make phone calls, host meet-ups and other events as well as participate in voter registration drives, Singh said. The calls are being made in seven different languages.

"Because of the leadership, policies and inclusive economy of President Trump, we have been able to take our conservative message directly to a diverse group of voters, be it Black, Latino or Asian-Pacific Americans, and it is paying off," RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in an emailed statement.

At his rallies and in other public remarks, Trump touted low unemployment figures for African Americans and other minorities before the economy was decimated by the coronavirus pandemic. Last week, in delivering remarks to highlight the June jobs report figures, he mentioned gains made by minorities."African American workers — really happily for me — made historic gains with 404,000 jobs added last month alone, and that's a record," Trump said. "Likewise, Hispanic employment is up by 1.5 million jobs, a record by a lot. Hispanic employment up 1.5 million jobs."

But the nation has been reeling from nationwide protests over racial injustice and police brutality after George Floyd, a Black man, died in police custody in Minneapolis in late May. In the resulting discussions about race, many people have demanded the country rethink Confederate monuments. But Trump has come down firmly on the side of keeping those honors. He has promised to protect any statues and threatened to veto legislation that would strip Confederate generals' names from military bases.

Earlier this week, Trump suggested NASCAR's only Black full-time driver, Bubba Wallace, should apologize after a rope fashioned like a noose was found in his garage, calling the episode a "HOAX." In the same tweet, Trump said the racing circuit's decision to ban the Confederate flag had hurt its television ratings.

The president has also dismissed many racial justice protests as riots and called "Black Lives Matter" a "symbol of hate." He criticized a New York City plan to paint the phrase on the street outside of Trump Tower. He's also publicly referred to COVID-19, which was first identified in China, as "Kung Flu," a racial slur.

A Monmouth University poll released July 8 found that 62% of Americans think that Trump's handling of the protests has worsened matters. The poll also showed that 66% of Americans believe that the country has become more divided since Trump's 2016 election.

Paris Dennard, the RNC's senior communications adviser for Black media affairs, says voters care more about the president's record toward their communities than rhetoric. He said that while the "media's going to focus on the rhetoric," as it did in 2016, Trump now has a record to point to in terms of how his policies have impacted those constituencies.

Dennard said that in speaking with voters, RNC volunteers can point to comments Trump has made about being supportive of peaceful protesters, that last month he hosted at the White House the families of Black people killed in confrontations with police and other violent episodes. Later that day, he signed an executive order to curb police brutality.

"So when people ask 'what do we say, what do you do, how do you respond,' we always point them back to the winning record, because the record really speaks for itself, in terms of what this president has been doing to support the lives of minorities in this country," Dennard said.

Beyond the employment gains for minorities under his administration, Trump and Republicans also point to the 2018 First Step Act, which reduces prison sentences. They also cite increased funding for historically black colleges and universities as well as support for the opportunity zone program targeting inner-city communities.

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