CLEVELAND, Ohio – As part of a play to attract more black voters, the re-election campaign for Republican President Donald Trump announced it would open community centers in 15 cities in seven key states, including Cleveland and Columbus.
According to a news release, the centers would serve as a headquarters for Black Voices for Trump – the coalition pushing to increase the president’s appeal to black voters – in each of the cities. Besides Ohio, the centers will open in the battleground states of Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Wisconsin.
“Team Trump is going where no other Republican campaigns have gone before to ensure that the President’s message is heard,” said Katrina Pierson, a Trump campaign senior adviser.
Republicans have generally performed poorly with black voters in recent decades. Exit polls from 2016 showed Trump carried just 8% of black voters both nationally and in Ohio.
As such, Republicans in the past have opted to focus on other constituencies. But as suburban Republicans have peeled off from the party – moreso nationally than in the state – Trump and the GOP have tried to expand where they traditionally reach out to voters.
Part of that is making a push for black voters, largely on the strength of the economy, historically low black unemployment and criminal justice reform.
Outside groups have also pitched in with outreach efforts, including the Urban Revitalization Coalition, a nonprofit founded by Cleveland Heights Pastor Darrell Scott and Cleveland native Kareem Lanier, both Trump allies. The group has made national headlines for its flashy events, including handing out $25,000 at a Cleveland event where speakers praised Trump in December. The group is holding another event Saturday in Cleveland where it plans to give out $50,000.
A spokesman for Trump’s Ohio campaign said he did not have details to release about where the offices in Cleveland and Columbus would be located or when they would open. An NBC News report said the campaign is targeting an opening date of mid-March.