Trump holds campaign rally in the Bronx as he seeks to make inroads with Hispanic and Black voters

Former President Donald Trump held a rally Thursday in the Bronx as his campaign looks to make inroads with Hispanic and Black voters ahead of November’s election.

The event in one of the most Democratic counties in the country comes days ahead of closing arguments in Trump’s New York criminal hush money trial. Trump faces 34 felony counts and has pleaded not guilty.

The trial has tethered the former president to New York for much of the past six weeks, but Thursday’s event in Crotona Park in the South Bronx was Trump’s first major campaign rally in the state since his initial presidential run in 2016. Trump has visited a bodega, which was the scene of a fatal stabbing in 2022, a construction site and a fire station in Manhattan since his trial began in mid-April.

As he addressed supporters in the park Thursday, Trump dedicated most of his remarks to bashing President Joe Biden, arguing that his rival is “not getting the job done for the Bronx,” the state of New York or the country.

“African Americans are getting slaughtered. Hispanic Americans are getting slaughtered,” Trump said as he argued that they have been negatively impacted by Biden’s border and economic policies.

“These millions and millions of people that are coming into our country, the biggest impact and the biggest negative impact is against our Black population and our Hispanic population who are losing their jobs, losing their housing, losing everything they can lose,” he said.

A Trump campaign official told CNN that several factors, including the former president’s long history of living and working in New York and his efforts to win over minority voters, played into the decision to hold the Bronx rally. The official said that the area’s proximity to Trump’s criminal trial was also a consideration, as was the former president’s desire to “challenge the status quo” in a state that has long voted for Democrats.

Trump has insisted that he has a shot this fall at winning New York, which a Republican presidential nominee has not carried since 1984. The Bronx is a Democratic stronghold, which Trump lost by about 68 points to Biden in 2020. That margin, however, was down from four years earlier, when Hillary Clinton carried the county by 79 points.

Trump’s improvement was even greater in the South Bronx, where Thursday’s rally took place. Biden won the election district (or precinct) surrounding Crotona Park by 69 points. Clinton carried the same precinct by more than 90 points in 2016.

Trump’s performance in the Bronx in 2020 mirrored his results in other areas where Hispanic voters make up a substantial portion of the electorate. Residents in the South Bronx are mainly Hispanic (64%) and Black (31%), according to the US Census Bureau.

Polling this year shows Trump may do even better among Hispanic and Black voters than he did four years ago. Surveys taken since the beginning of April show Biden’s margin among these voters down double digits compared with surveys from the same point in 2020.

This is likely part of the reason why the Biden campaign launched two new ads Thursday aimed at highlighting what it called “Trump’s long record of failures and broken promises” to Black Americans.

The spots point out that Trump was sued for housing discrimination in the 1970s and charged with discriminating against African Americans; promoted the racist conspiracy theory that President Barack Obama was not born in the US; pushed for the death penalty for five minority teenagers who were wrongly accused and convicted of beating and raping a woman in Central Park in the 1980s; and “stood with violent White supremacists” in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.

The Trump campaign said the ads represented an attempt to “gaslight Black voters.”

“We must not forget that it was Joe Biden who was a key figure in passing the 1994 Crime Bill, which disproportionately harmed Black communities through harsh sentencing laws and increased incarceration rates. Additionally, we cannot overlook that Biden’s policies are driving Black families deeper into poverty and making them less safe,” Janiyah Thomas, the campaign’s Black media director, said in a statement.

Several House Republicans from New York said they couldn’t make it to Trump’s event due to changes in the chamber’s voting schedule Thursday.

“New York is in play and we had all planned to be there to greet him and attend this historic event. However, the House schedule changed and we will be voting to ban illegal immigrants from voting in elections and to protect American’s right to financial privacy,” House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, seen as a potential Trump running mate, said in a joint statement with seven other lawmakers.

Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ritchie Torres, who represent parts of the Bronx, blasted the former president ahead of the event.

Ocasio-Cortez, in an interview with NY1, called it an “attempt to, I think, trick some of our folks here,” while Torres told The New York Times that Trump was “radioactive” in the Bronx.

Trump’s outreach to minority voters also comes as the former president has made stoking fears about undocumented migrants a cornerstone of his campaign. He has regularly made false or misleading claims about illegal immigration and used dehumanizing language when referring to migrants.

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Crotona Park. It has also been updated with additional information.

CNN’s Kit Maher contributed to this report.

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