Trump campaigns in New York's South Bronx in a bid to woo non-white voters

Recent polls suggest Donald Trump is gaining ground with Black and Hispanic voters, who have traditionally voted for the Democrats.

Updated - May 24, 2024 05:30 am IST

Published - May 23, 2024 11:51 pm IST - NEW YORK

Former President Donald Trump speaks at a rally in the Bronx borough of New York on May 23, 2024.

Former President Donald Trump speaks at a rally in the Bronx borough of New York on May 23, 2024. | Photo Credit: AP

Former President Donald Trump campaigned on May 23 in one of the most Democratic counties in the nation, holding a rally in the South Bronx as he tries to woo minority voters days before a Manhattan jury will begin deliberations on whether to convict him of felony charges in his criminal hush money trial.

Mr. Trump was addressing 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.

The former president opened his rally with an ode to his hometown, talking about its humble beginnings as a small Dutch trading post before becoming a glamorous capital of culture that “inspired the entire world.” He established residency in Florida in 2019.

“Everyone wanted to be here,” he told the enthusiastic audience. “But sadly this is now a city in decline.” “If a New Yorker can’t save this country,” he went on to say, “no one can.”

‘This isn’t your typical presidential election’

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

But the Bronx rally is his 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.

Besides creating a spectacle of rallygoers and protesters, the rally also gave Mr. Trump an opportunity to highlight what he argues are advantages on economic and immigration issues that could cut into key Democratic voting blocs.

“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 spoke at the rally.

Supporters of the Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump gather for a campaign rally in the Bronx borough of New York, Thursday, May. 23, 2024.

Supporters of the Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump gather for a campaign rally in the Bronx borough of New York, Thursday, May. 23, 2024. | Photo Credit: AP

Hours before Mr. Trump’s rally was set to begin, a long line of supporters decked out in red “Made America Great Again” hats and other Trump gear snaked around the park, waiting for security screening to begin. Trump’s campaign said it expected several thousand people to attend.

The Bronx Democratic Party protested Mr. Trump’s appearance with its own event at the park. Members of multiple unions were present, holding signs that said “The Bronx says no to Trump” in both English and Spanish.

“We are used to elected officials, to government officials, to opportunists of all kinds who come to our community and use our painful history,” said Democratic State Rep. Amanda Septimo, who represents the South Bronx. “They talk about the Bronx and everything that’s wrong with it, but they never get to the part that talks about what they’re going to do for the Bronx and we know that Trump is never going to get to that part in his speech.”

But some locals in the crowd disagreed. Margarita Rosario, a 69-year-old who has lived in the borough for more than 60 years, said she New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on television the night before suggesting that the Bronx wouldn’t support Mr. Trump. It spurred her to show up, holding a Trump flag and a poster that said, ‘Make America Great Again’. “I got so annoyed with that. I said ‘How dare she speak for the whole Bronx?’” she said.

Muhammad Ali, a 50-year-old Bangladeshi immigrant who lives in Bronx, said he planned to vote for Mr. Trump in November. He also said he once used to think the former president was a racist but his views have changed. “We need a patriotic president at the moment and I find Donald Trump more patriotic for the moment than Joe Biden,” he said.

Why Trump is trying to win over non-white voters

Recent polls suggest Mr. Trump is gaining ground with Black and Hispanic voters, groups that traditionally have supported Democrats. Mr. Trump's campaign sees an opportunity to grab enough of their votes to make a difference in battleground States in the November 5 election.

That is not the case with New York, which Mr. Trump lost by 23 percentage points in 2020 and has no chance of winning this year, political analysts say. But, a well-attended rally held in the city and covered by major TV networks could help project his message to Black and Hispanic voters nationwide.

“I think it’s part of this larger narrative where he’s trying to chip away at Biden’s support amongst Black and Latino men, primarily,” said Christina Greer, an associate professor of political science at Fordham University. “By him going to the South Bronx, he can say ‘I’m talking to communities that Joe Biden is taking for granted’.”

Mr. Trump’s focus on non-white voters reflects both candidates’ efforts to look beyond their base in what national polls show to be a close re-match. Some 40% of registered voters in a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll said they would vote for Mr. Biden if the election were held today, with the same share picking Mr. Trump.

Mr. Trump won the U.S. presidency in 2016 with less support from Black and Hispanic voters than any president in at least 40 years, then made up ground with both groups in the 2020 race. In the New York Times/Siena College poll in March, he was selected by 23% of Black and 46% of Hispanic respondents in a one-on-one matchup with the current president. That is far higher than the 12% of Black and 32% of Hispanic voters than he won in 2020, according to Edison Research exit polls.

Political analysts have attributed Mr. Biden's slipping support among non-white voters this election cycle in part to the outsized impact of inflation on people living paycheck to paycheck.

Roughly 55% of Bronx County residents are Hispanic and about one-third are Black, according to 2022 census data. Mr. Biden won the county by 67.6 percentage points in 2020.

Biden on the offensive

Mr. Biden has had a flurry of actions and events focused on bolstering support among African American voters, including giving the commencement address at Morehouse College, where he noted the billions in funding his administration has granted to historically Black colleges and universities. He also has singled out Mr. Trump and other Republicans for attacking programmes aimed at improving diversity, equity and inclusion.

On Thursday, the Biden campaign released two new ads attacking Mr.Trump’s treatment of Black people.

Democratic U.S. Representative Ritchie Torres, who represents the Bronx, on Thursday said it was clear to New Yorkers in the borough that Mr. Trump put his self interests over their needs. "I'm confident the people of the Bronx are not going to buy the snake oil he's selling," Mr. Torres told MSNBC in an interview.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.