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Biden Harris Black Voters AP-24150708414340
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris recently made a rare joint appearance to launch Black Voters for Biden-Harris. Joe Lamberti/AP

Black Voters Could Decide the Election. Only One Party Is Focusing On Them.

Former President Donald Trump talks about Black voters, but his party’s outreach efforts remain in early stages.

As the Biden campaign ramps up its efforts to shore up the Black vote, former President Donald Trump’s appeals to Black voters are still more about rhetoric than action.

The Republican Party’s minority outreach offices in battleground states have mainly been closed since Trump’s team took over in the spring, and plans for reopening have yet to be announced. Local county chairs in Michigan are reportedly struggling to find staff to fuel Republicans’ minority outreach centers across the state. A planned outreach campaign by a Republican group to Black voters in Georgia was pushed back by months, a source told NOTUS.

And Trump has been tied up with legal cases and felony convictions (although his allies have suggested it could help him appeal to Black voters).

Meanwhile, five months ahead of the election, the Biden-Harris campaign is fully immersed in national outreach aimed at highlighting the administration’s accomplishments to Black voters who they fear will abandon Democrats for either Trump or simply stay home.

“The president’s campaign has been very aggressive with the development of their field team in places with a high Black population like Charlotte and Wilmington,” said Doug Wilson, a Democratic strategist in North Carolina who attended a Biden-Harris outreach event in his state last week. “I think North Carolina Republicans are feeling too overconfident in early polls that suggest Biden doesn’t have a shot here. They essentially have no ground game yet.”

The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment on its Black voter outreach efforts.

Last week, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris made a rare joint appearance to launch Black Voters for Biden-Harris, an eight-figure summer-long effort to engage with the Black community through student organizations, faith centers and community groups.

“As a candidate for president, Joe Biden gave his word that we would fight to address some of the biggest issues facing the Black community, and we have delivered,” Harris said to the crowd in Philadelphia.

The goal of the Black Voters for Biden-Harris effort is for high-profile surrogates to speak directly to voters about some of the policies that affected Black voters, such as a record $16 billion in funding for HBCUs, student loan debt forgiveness, capping the cost of insulin and pardoning marijuana possession charges.

In Michigan, state senators and Detroit city council members are leading outreach through conversations with community members across barbershops and hair salons. Savannah, Georgia, Mayor Van Johnson and other state representatives celebrated the opening of more minority engagement offices in the state last week. Black leaders also campaigned for Biden and Harris across multiple airwaves, appearing on Black radio shows like “The Earl Ingram Show” in Wisconsin and KRDP in Arizona.

This summer effort follows a string of other appearances focused on the Black community, including Biden delivering the commencement address at Morehouse College in May and a virtual address to Rev. Al Sharpton’s racial justice conference in April. Harris has been on a Nationwide Economic Opportunity Tour largely focused on minority communities across the U.S., making stops in places like Detroit and the Black Wall Street in Durham, North Carolina.

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Trump and his allies have spoken plenty about Black voters but have yet to make heavy investments.

Trump tried to woo Black and Latino voters at a campaign stop in the Bronx last month through a speech that denigrated Biden’s immigration policies, which he said had led to a migrant influx that took jobs and housing from Black and Latino residents. He also brought New York rappers Sheff G and Sleepy Hallow to speak in his favor at the rally.

The Trump campaign also doesn’t hesitate to remind voters about Biden’s involvement in passing the 1994 crime bill, which disproportionately incarcerated Black people.

Other GOP appeals to Black voters have been minimal. In Michigan, for example, GOP Chair Pete Hoekstra told NOTUS it “might be a little premature” to discuss Republicans’ outreach to Black voters in the state in late March. Asked again last week, Hoekstra says there has been “positive progress” — but didn’t give any details.

A major effort to win over Black voters to the GOP is currently on pause. The Georgia Black Republican Council, an auxiliary group to the state party, organized a seven-figure statewide billboard and radio campaign aimed at Black voters in several areas of the state. While the group hoped to run the campaign from this month through November, a source in the Council told NOTUS the campaign will be delayed until later in the year.

“We’re probably going to try to get through the RNC convention, and then launch somewhere at the end of August,” the source said. “Georgia is one of the battlegrounds that the RNC is definitely still interested in. It’s just people’s attention spans; they’re vacationing and not paying much attention over the summer months.”

Calen Razor is a NOTUS reporter and an Allbritton Journalism Institute fellow.