Trump enlists prominent Black Republicans to appeal to their peers: ‘Fishing where the fish are’

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In his latest effort to court Black voters, former President Trump this week met with students and influential alumni from historically Black colleges and universities.

Among those attending at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, were members of a conservative Black student group, including Michaelah Montgomery, an activist and founder of Conserve the Culture, whose photos with Trump during the former president’s stop at an Atlanta-area Chick-fil-A in April went viral.

The Trump-hosted gathering on Wednesday evening in Florida comes as public opinion polls suggest the former president and presumptive Republican nominee is making gains with Black voters and chipping away at President Biden’s once overwhelming lead as the two face off in a 2024 election rematch.

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Trump’s meeting was held one night after two of his most prominent Black allies and surrogates – GOP Reps. Byron Donalds of Florida and Wesley Hunt of Texas – ventured to a cigar bar along the riverfront in Philadelphia to headline a GOP outreach effort for Black male voters. The City of Brotherly Love is a deep-blue bastion in the key general election battleground of Pennsylvania.

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The two lawmakers kicked off a series of gatherings titled “Congress, Cognac, and Cigars” they say they’ll continue to hold in the crucial swing states, with stops tentatively planned in Atlanta and Milwaukee.

“We’re here to engage in Philadelphia. Engage and really start to begin building those relationships that are critical in the Black community across this country,” Donalds said in an interview with Fox News. 

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Donalds, who’s considered to be on Trump’s short list for running mate, acknowledged that “for far too long our party, the Republican Party, has not really tried to build relationships with Black voters. Wesley, myself, President Trump, that’s what we want to do. This is not just purely about 2024 and voter engagement. This is about building relationships around great policies, common sense and leadership that our country needs.”

The new push by Donalds and Hunt comes a couple of months after the Republican National Committee closed its community centers across the country that were established to boost the party’s minority outreach efforts.

“I don’t work for the RNC, which is why I’m here, which is why Wesley is here,” Donalds said. “And there’s going to be a lot of different initiatives moving through this election cycle that are going to be specifically targeted to Black voters.”

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A couple of hours earlier, in a diverse neighborhood in the northeastern corner of Philadelphia, Hunt headlined the opening of the first Trump, Republican National Committee and Pennsylvania GOP campaign office in the swing state.

“We are going bravely where no Republicans in the past 20 to 30 years have gone before,” Hunt, a first-term congressman and military veteran, said in a Fox News interview. “We are actually fishing where the fish are.”

“We know that we are making some very good strides in the Black community and among Hispanic men and Hispanic women,” Hunt said as he pointed to recent polling that’s grabbed plenty of attention. “Keep in mind in 2020 President Trump got 18.7% of the Black Male vote.”

And pointing to this November’s election, Hunt argued that if Trump “gets between 25 and 30% of the Black Male vote, the Democrat Party can not win.”

Vince Fenerty, the GOP chair in Philadelphia and a ward leader for more than 50 years, told Fox News that geography mattered when it came to the first office opening in the state.

“We did it in this part of the city because it’s ethnically diverse, racially diverse, and we want to start here because we want to build a very broad coalition of all Americans to be for President Trump,” Fenerty noted. 

Pennsylvania was one of six states Biden narrowly carried in 2020 to win the White House. The president’s re-election campaign, the DNC and the state party have 24 coordinated offices and hundreds of staffers.

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Biden, a Pennsylvania native, has made numerous official and campaign stops in the state – and Philadelphia in particular – since launching his re-election campaign more than a year ago. Last week, Biden and Vice President Harris campaigned in Philadelphia together for the first time.

The president and vice president rallied supporters at Girard College as they launched “Black Voters for Biden-Harris,” which the campaign touted as a “national organizing program to bolster our continued historic investments in outreach to the backbone of the Biden-Harris coalition – Black voters.”

In his speech, Biden took aim at his Republican challenger.

“Donald Trump is pandering and peddling lies and stereotypes for your vote so he can win for himself, not for you,” Biden charged. “Well, Donald Trump, I have a message for you: Not in our house and not on our watch.”

And Biden re-election campaign spokesperson Sarafina Chitika, pointing to Trump’s past derogatory comments aimed at minorities, argued in a statement to Fox News that “it’s no coincidence that Donald Trump, who spent his life discriminating against Black tenants and his career railing against the first Black president, has no Black voter outreach program to speak of. Trump has made it clear how little he thinks of Black men.”

And Chitika emphasized that “President Biden knows he has to earn – not ask for – every vote, and that’s exactly what our campaign is doing from now until November.”

The president has repeatedly spotlighted his investments in historically Black colleges and universities, student debt forgiveness and infrastructure projects as he campaigns for a second term in the White House.

But Hunt said the “Democrat Party has been pitching lies to the Black community for decades; [he] has done absolutely nothing for us.”

Get the latest updates from the 2024 campaign trail, exclusive interviews and more at our Fox News Digital election hub.