ATLANTA — President Donald Trump made a stop in Cobb County, Georgia, Friday as part of a final effort to court Black voters — a demographic he’s struggled to win over.
High-profile Black Democrats in Georgia were not impressed by Trump's pitch, saying they hope the president gets the message he is not welcome in the state.
Trump made his case by pitching proposals catered to Black voters. Dubbed the “Platinum Plan,” Trump unveiled a new economic plan that includes dedicating Juneteenth — a day that marks the end of slavery — as a national holiday and making lynching a federal hate crime.
His plan also designates both the Klu Klux Klan and Antifa as terrorist organizations.
With polls showing only a sliver between the president and Democrat opponent Joe Biden in Georgia, the Trump campaign has been forced to put up a fight in a state where Republicans usually win.
“(Democrats) make you big promises every election and then the moment they got to Washington they abandoned and sold you out,” Trump said to the room of mostly Black supporters. “You know it better than anyone else."
To a gathering of several hundred — much smaller than the president's typical campaign rallies — Trump made his case pledging if reelected, he’d put dollars toward Black education, clear paths for incarcerated individuals to employment and invest in health care issues that disproportionately impact minorities — including Georgia’s continued high rates of maternal mortality.
After the downward plunge of the economy due to the pandemic, the president is pushing loan plans to revive Black-owned small businesses. Georgia’s unemployment rate has been dropping after hitting its peak at 12.6% in April.
Kaaryn Walker, founder of the group Black Conservatives for Truth, said she believes the number of Black voters who cast ballots for Trump will increase this election. Republicans, she said, have proven with a steady stream of interest in Georgia they care about Black voters.
“They are courting us as though they are not just trying to win our votes,” she said. “But they’re interested in our success and they’re interested in our liberty — whether it's health care, economics or education.”
A sentiment, Walker said, she feels is lacking from the other side of the aisle.
Various speakers rallied the crowd before the president made his way onto the stage — from faith leaders and students to Georgia’s own football star Herschel Walker and congressional candidate Angela Staton King.
Speakers hailed Trump as a president “who does what he says he’s going to do.”
Edward Muldrow, GOP chairman for Gwinnett County, said in 2016 when Trump asked Black voters what they had to lose in voting for him, some looked around and found the answer was “nothing.”
“In the Black community, we’ve been getting the same treatment over and over again for decades with no better results,” he told CNHI. “So when he made that comment years ago, a lot of us actually took stock in that.”
Still, only 8% of Black voters backed Trump in 2016 — a number the reelection campaign wants to increase. For the 2020 cycle, the campaign has targeted field offices in Black communities and launched the Black Voices for Trump initiative in Atlanta last November.
‘A fool’s errand'
Trump’s effort to sway Black voters comes as a handful of recent polls show he and Biden are neck and neck in the Peach State.
This week, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll showed Trump and Biden at 47% a piece — solidifying claims that Georgia is the new battleground state. Democrats hope to shake the longtime Republican stronghold with two Senate seats up for grabs and competitive congressional races playing out.
Stacey Abrams, 2018 gubernatorial candidate and high-profile Democrat, called the president’s rally in Cobb a “fool’s errand.”
"We know that his failure in leadership, his failure on COVID, his failure on racial justice, his failure on the economy, means that he will not be adding votes to his column here in the state of Georgia,” Abrams said Thursday. “…What I hope he takes away from the state of Georgia tomorrow, is that he's no longer welcome here.”
Despite the pandemic, the Trump Victory campaign has amped up its ground game in Georgia — dispatching an army of door-knockers and surrogates to the president in an effort to boost enthusiasm. His senior advisors and campaign directors remain adamant that the move will ultimately pay off.
But Democrats have bashed Republicans' willingness to continue in-person events with large crowds that are often made up of older voters most at risk for serious health complications from COVID-19.
The party also pointed to recent outcry after a new book by journalist Bob Woodward quotes Trump saying from the beginning, he intended to downplay the severity of COVID-19.
“While Trump lied about the dangerous nature of COVID-19, Black and brown communities have been on the front line of this pandemic for months," Nikema Williams, chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Georgia, said in a statement. "And we don’t let him get away with the consequences."