President Trump received encouraging news about his campaign and black voters Thursday as he met with top political advisers at the White House, even as polls showed his position eroding in battleground states against presumptive Democratic nominee Joseph R. Biden and as his administration was confronting a host of domestic challenges.
Despite a spate of public polls showing the president trailing his rival, Trump campaign adviser Katrina Pierson and Republican National Committee official Paris Dennard told the president that they see a “tremendous uptick” in the campaign’s outreach with black voters in the two weeks since Mr. Biden’s “you ain’t black” comment, which was directed at black voters who haven’t decided on a candidate, people familiar with the discussion said. Mr. Biden has since apologized for the remark.
“The president was very interested in that and pointed to his own record of accomplishment with black voters,” said a person who attended the hourlong meeting. “I’d say a third of the meeting was dedicated to that.”
The campaign plans to open 15 field offices in various cities aimed at engaging black voters. The plan was put on hold during the coronavirus crisis.
The source described the strategy and communications portion of the White House meeting as upbeat and confident, saying that as the president left the room, he turned back to his campaign aides and told them, “We’re going to win.”
“It was a good meeting. Everybody walked out feeling pretty good about it,” said the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The president and his advisers also believe the civil unrest of the past week has presented Mr. Trump with an advantage over Mr. Biden on the issue of law and order.
Mr. Trump pointed Thursday to liberals’ growing movement to defund police departments as another battleground in the campaign.
“The Radical Left Democrats new theme is ‘Defund the Police,’” Mr. Trump tweeted. “Remember that when you don’t want Crime, especially against you and your family. This is where Sleepy Joe is being dragged by the socialists. I am the complete opposite, more money for Law Enforcement!”
After former Hillary Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon, now executive director of Demand Justice, tweeted “Defund the police,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany gave a reply.
“I can’t believe I have to say this, but do NOT defund the police,” she said on Twitter.
Although the president has been heavily criticized for threatening to call out the military to quell rioting, a White House spokesman said “all options are on the table” when Americans’ safety is at stake.
“When you see the lawlessness across the country occurring, and you see storefronts kicked in, and all the merchandise gone, when you see innocent Americans dragged out in the streets and beaten to within an inch of their own lives, left to lie in a pool of their own blood, left to die, that’s a serious problem that needs to be addressed,” said deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley.
The Trump campaign sent out a fundraising email seeking to capitalize on Biden campaign staffers who contributed to a bail fund to enable demonstrators arrested in Minneapolis to be released from jail.
“Joe Biden’s campaign is so RADICAL that they are working to get dangerous ANARCHISTS out of jail at the cost of Americans’ safety,” the email said. “The Left-Wing MOB is trying to DESTROY communities around the Nation, and Sleepy Joe’s campaign is only fueling the fire. We can’t let them get away with this. These riots must end.”
Mr. Biden said in an online fundraising event Thursday that he approaches the police issue “from a civil rights standpoint.”
“We’re not going to make any significant progress until we have economic growth, economic justice, economic opportunity,” he said. “Not just changing civil rights laws and changing the ways the police can act and don’t act, but going beyond that.”
He told supporters about minorities, “Don’t just talk about how they’re mistreated walking down the street … but a lack of economic opportunity, educational opportunity, just the lack of opportunity to accumulate wealth.”
“We don’t allow these folks to be able to accumulate wealth,” he said.
The president, who achieved the lowest black unemployment rate in history before the pandemic, also held a meeting in the Oval Office on Thursday with campaign manager Brad Parscale, deputy campaign manager Bill Stepien, pollster Tony Fabrizio, White House adviser Jared Kushner and Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.
The strategy session was held after a month in which the president trailed Mr. Biden in every one of more than 40 nationwide public polls.
Mr. Biden is the first challenger to lead an incumbent president in all May polls since Jimmy Carter in 1976.
A Fox News poll this week showed Mr. Biden leading the president by 8 percentage points nationally, 48% to 40%. The same survey last month showed the candidates tied at 42%.
Mr. Biden also led in the Fox poll in three states that Mr. Trump won in 2016: Wisconsin, Ohio and Arizona. The president won Ohio in 2016 by 8 points, and until recently the state wasn’t considered in play. No Republican has ever won the presidency without the support of Ohio.
But a campaign official said this week that the president is “running strong against a defined Biden” in all key states. A person familiar with the polling said a “defined” Mr. Biden means portraying him to voters as wrong on taxes, jobs, trade, China, race relations and energy production.
A pro-Trump super PAC said Thursday that it is launching a $7.5 million ad blitz aimed at Mr. Biden’s “disastrous” economic policies in the battleground states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.
“For decades, Joe Biden was willing to sacrifice hundreds of thousands of blue-collar jobs to appease China and the promise of globalists,” said Brian Walsh, president of America First Action PAC. “Now, as our nation begins its recovery, Americans cannot afford Joe Biden’s failures, lack of economic experience and pandering to the radical left.”
He said Mr. Trump is the only candidate “who knows how to create jobs in this country and can lead America’s economic recovery.”
Mr. Trump is trailing Mr. Biden in all three states by 3 to 4 percentage points in the Real Clear Politics average of polls. The president won all three states by narrow margins in 2016.
The announcement was made on the same day that the Labor Department said another 1.9 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week because of the coronavirus shutdown. The unemployment report for May, due out Friday, is expected to show the jobless rate bottoming out near 20%.
Although more than 40 million workers have lost their jobs in the past three months, polls generally still show that voters trust Mr. Trump more than Mr. Biden on handling the economy.
The pro-Trump PAC ads in Michigan target Mr. Biden’s support for the North American Free Trade Agreement, saying it cost 160,000 jobs. In Pennsylvania, they will focus on Mr. Biden’s stated goal of eliminating fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas.
In Wisconsin, the ads target Mr. Biden’s comment that China is a “competitor” rather than an adversary.
“If you can’t understand the threat, you can’t stop China,” the narrator says.
The ads will appear on cable, broadcast, digital and direct mail through the July Fourth weekend in markets such as Grand Rapids and Flint, Michigan; Green Bay and Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and Pittsburgh and Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.
Mr. Trump will visit Maine on Friday for the first time in his presidency to tour a medical swab manufacturer and hold a discussion on commercial fisheries. He captured one of the state’s four electoral votes in 2016.
Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, asked the president not to come to the state. She said she was concerned about security, given the climate of civil unrest.
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