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With the veepstakes on, Tim Scott thinks he can deliver the Black votes Trump wants

Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) speaks as Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump looks on during a campaign rally on January 19 in Concord, N.H.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
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Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) speaks as Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump looks on during a campaign rally on January 19 in Concord, N.H.

Sen. Tim Scott says Black voters, especially Black men, might be the key to a Trump victory in 2024.

Black voters have overwhelmingly supported Democratic presidential candidates over the years, but the South Carolina senator points to recent polling that shows black support for Biden is falling.

“There’s a lot of reasons why the shift is now becoming so blatantly obvious that it is now undeniable that there is something amiss. It’s real,” Scott said in a meeting Wednesday with a group of reporters. “It's not just racial, but it's going to manifest itself in a racial shift that we haven't seen in probably three decades of politics.”

Scott, who is a leading candidate to be former President Donald Trump’s running mate, thinks he can help Trump continue to chip away at that lead - and plans to court those voters while campaigning over the next several months in battleground states.

The effort could also boost Scott’s chances of being picked by Trump, who has made a point of appealing to Black and Latino voters. Trump is expected to select his choice for vice president by the Republican National Convention, which will be held next month in Milwaukee.

“Obviously, it’s a must win constituency for Biden,” explained Alex Conant, who helped lead Sen. Marco Rubio's presidential campaign in 2016. “To the extent that [Sen. Scott] can cleave votes, it’s a really big deal. Politically, it makes [Scott] a very interesting VP pick.”

The Great Opportunity PAC, which supports Scott’s agenda, is launching a $14.3 million campaign to help court black voters, according to a memo from the PAC obtained by NPR.

Most of the money will go toward voter outreach, but millions will also be spent on advertising and digital marketing as well as research and analytics to back up the effort.

The message is simple: Democrats have long taken the Black vote for granted. And Scott insists Black voters were better off during the Trump administration, particularly from an economic standpoint, than they have been under Biden.

In a recent poll by GenForward, conducted by the University of Chicago, just 33% of young Black people said they would support Biden if the election were held today - and 23% chose Trump. While the poll showed significant undecided and third party sentiment, Biden won Black voters under 45 by more than 80% in 2020.

Democrats are aware of the numbers – as well as the need to strengthen the coalition that brought them victory in 2024.

It’s just one of the reasons Biden has been targeting the group with visits and events in Atlanta, Detroit and Philadelphia.

In Michigan, Biden spoke at the NAACP's annual Fight for Freedom Fund Dinner. He told the massive crowd that he needs them.

“Let’s be clear,” Biden said. “Because of your vote, it’s the only reason I’m standing here as President of the United States of America, period. Again, that’s not a joke. That’s a fact. You’re the reason Kamala Harris is a historic vice president. You’re the reason Donald Trump is the defeated former president. And you’re the reason Donald Trump is going to be a loser again.”

The Biden campaign has also launched ad campaigns attacking Trump on his record with Black and brown Americans, highlighting some of the most racially charged remarks he’s made, including about the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville and dehumanizing language against Latino migrants.

“The threat that Trump poses is greater in a second term than the first,” Biden told the crowd in Detroit.

Scott doesn’t expect Black voters to flee the Democratic party in droves, but that’s not necessary. He says Biden can’t afford to lose much of the Black vote – especially in states like Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin.

“If the Black voters do two things, some stay home and some come to the right there is no way to fill that hole,” Scott predicted. “So the coalition that is necessary for the Democrats to have success, period, it's not just Black and Hispanic. It's specifically Black in the battleground states where they have to be successful.”

Cornell Belcher, who served as a pollster for former President Barack Obama, echoed that uphill battle for Biden.

He doesn’t think Black voters are going to jump to Trump, but he does worry some might not show up.

“I'm more concerned about African American voters sitting at home or breaking third party. Because that becomes 2016 again, right? How does Trump win? He doesn't win by addition. He wins by subtraction,” Belcher explained.

He argues that polls and pundits issued the same tired warnings before the 2022 midterm elections and back in 2012 - about Obama struggling with Black voters.

But he also emphasizes that no candidate is where they want to be five months out from the election.

“That's literally why we run a campaign like this at this point,” he said.

Copyright 2024 NPR

Franco Ordoñez
[Copyright 2024 Texas Public Radio]