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Friday, June 21, 2024

Trump Rally in South Bronx Is Biggest Test Yet of Appeal Among Blue-State Voters

'People are fed up. Democrats say they are there to help us ... but our people are doing worse under the Democratic control...'

(Headline USA) Former President Donald Trump will campaign in one of the most Democratic counties in the nation Thursday, holding a rally in the South Bronx to woo minority voters days before a Manhattan jury will begin deliberations on whether to convict him of felony charges in his porn-star trial.

Trump will address supporters in Crotona Park, a public green space in a neighborhood that is among the city’s most diverse and its most impoverished, a change from the majority-white areas where he holds most of his rallies. His campaign said he is expected to draw a crowd of several thousand people.

However, with a recent rally in deep blue New Jersey having shocked political watchers, drawing an estimated 80,000 to 100,000 who waited hours if not days to gain access, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee has proven that he can defy all expectations and win over an unlikely coalition of supporters with his populist appeal.

With Trump confined to New York for the last six weeks, the presumptive Republican nominee’s campaign planned a series of local stops across his hometown before and after court. He visited a bodega in Harlem, dropped by a construction site one morning, and held a photo op at a local firehouse.

The Bronx rally will be Trump’s first event open to the general public as he insists he is making a play to win an overwhelmingly Democratic state that hasn’t backed a Republican for president since Ronald Reagan in 1984.

While the odds of him claiming outright one of the bluest states in the country may be stacked against him, though, the same factors that drove the Reagan Revolution in the 1980s seem almost to be daring history to repeat itself.

Besides creating a spectacle of rallygoers and protesters, the rally also allows Trump to highlight what he argues are advantages on economic and immigration issues that could cut into key Democratic voting blocs, not to mention his support for Israel in a state where more than 9% of the population is Jewish, the highest rate anywhere in the nation.

“The strategy is to demonstrate to the voters of the Bronx and New York that this isn’t your typical presidential election, that Donald Trump is here to represent everybody and get our country back on track,” said Florida Republican Rep. Byron Donalds, a potential Trump running mate who grew up in Brooklyn and will join him at the rally.

Trump’s campaign believes he can chip away at Democrats’ historic support among black and Hispanic voters, particularly younger men who are frustrated by their economic situations and relate to Trump as a fellow victim of government oppression fighting against a rigged criminal-justice system.

The rally comes during a pause in Trump’s Manhattan trial, where suspicion has grown that Judge Juan Merchan may be receiving bribes from Democrat lawmakers and other party leaders through his daughter’s digital marketing business, Authentic Campaigns.

Legal experts including revered Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz have denounced the show trial as one of the biggest travesties of justice they have ever witnessed.

Court will resume following the Memorial Day weekend with closing arguments.

Several longtime figures in New York politics—both Republican and Democrat—argued there’s good reason for Trump to go to the Bronx and other majority black and Latino communities.

Ed Cox, chairman of the New York Republican Party, noted that the GOP, in an upset victory, picked up a city council seat from the borough last year for the first time in 40 years. He pointed to the current political climate, with many voters pessimistic about the economy and viewing President Joe Biden as responsible for the current state of national malaise.

“As chairman of the party here in New York, I’m not going to write off New York. We’re going to go for it,” he said.

Trump has often pointed to the success of former Rep. Lee Zeldin, a Republican who ran for governor in 2022 against Democratic incumbent Kathy Hochul. Zeldin ultimately lost the race by an unusually close margin.

During his campaign, Zeldin appeared in the Bronx alongside the Rev. Rubén Díaz Sr., a former state senator and city council member who had urged Trump to hold a rally in the borough and held a pro-Trump event there Saturday.

While other presidential candidates have visited and met with local leaders, Díaz commended Trump for being “the first and only president or presidential candidate who has shown respect to minority communities in the Bronx” by holding a rally.

Díaz, who remains a Democrat despite backing Trump, said he believes there are others in the borough who will also cross the aisle, pointing to the influx of illegal immigrants that has dominated headlines in New York due to budget and safety concerns.

“People are fed up,” he said. “Democrats say they are there to help us … but our people are doing worse under the Democratic control.”

Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that campaigning in that part of the city makes sense for Trump.

“There is a concentration of Latino ministers who are pro-life in the Bronx and they are mobilized and energized,” said Cuomo, who chose to appear with Diaz in 2022 as he floated a political comeback months after the Democrat resigned after being accused of sexual harassment by at least 11 women.

Cuomo, who has denied the allegations, said: “It’s not really indicative of New York, but there is a lot of energy on that issue in that part of the Bronx.”

The Bronx was once the most Democratic borough in the city. Barack Obama won 91.2% of the borough’s vote in 2012, the highest anywhere in the state. Biden won 83.5% of the borough in 2020. Trump garnered only 16% of the vote.

The area Trump will be visiting is overwhelmingly non-white. About 65% of residents are Hispanic and 31% black, according to U.S. Census data. About 35% live below the poverty line.

Trump will not be the first Republican presidential candidate to visit the borough. Reagan—the last Republican president to win New York— held an event in the South Bronx as he ran against Democratic President Jimmy Carter in 1980, delivering a speech at a vacant lot on Charlotte Street.

Reagan, according to a New York Times report from the time, likened the area to London in World War II after the Gerdonman blitz and accused Carter of failing to deliver on promised revitalization efforts. Carter had visited the same spot several years earlier, vowing improvements.

Reagan’s visit was interrupted by protesters, who chanted, “You ain’t going to do nothing,” and “Go back to California.”

Adam Solis, the chairman of the Black Caucus of the New York Young Republican Club, which helped Trump’s campaign organize the event, said the visit to a park where he played growing up shows Trump cares about what he dubbed the “forgotten borough.”

“You can imagine being a Trump supporter in the Bronx. You can get ostracized sometimes,” said Solis, who still lives in the borough.

He also called on any protesters who might choose to demonstrate to remain peaceful.

“I wish any protesters the best. I hope they have fun sharing their views,” he said. “But I just hope they tread lightly. Because disrespect is not accepted in the Bronx.”

Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press

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