President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump encounters GOP resistance to investigating Hunter Biden Trump’s 2016 team sounds alarm as Democrats make gains Whistleblower lawyer sends cease and desist to White House over Trump’s attacks MORE on Friday accelerated efforts to win over support from black voters for his reelection bid, arguing his economic record should allow him to garner greater support among the voting bloc that has traditionally favored Democrats.

The president spoke at a “Black Voices for Trump” event in Atlanta, where he was joined by hundreds of supporters and a few prominent allies in an effort to kickstart his campaign’s outreach to African American voters.

“One year from now we’re going to win another incredible victory, and we’re going to do it with a groundswell of support form hard-working African American patriots,” Trump said, reading from prepared remarks. “And you know exactly what I’m talking about.”

The president opened by polling attendees on whether they preferred the slogan “Blacks for Trump” or “African Americans for Trump,” which prompted a chant of “Blacks for Trump!” He recounted his appeal to black voters near the end of the 2016 election when he asked: “What the hell do you have to lose?”

The president explicitly blamed Democrats for driving urban areas into the ground, a pattern he described as a “betrayal” that has hurt African Americans more than any other group.

“For decades, the Democrats have taken African American voters totally for granted,” Trump said. “They have. They didn’t do anything for you.”

Trump’s speech at times veered into campaign rally territory. He recalled his 2016 victory, touted his appointment of judges, boasted of his support for the military, complained about media coverage of recent elections in Kentucky and ripped Democrats leading an impeachment inquiry in the House.

The president will need to make headway with black voters or hope that many who traditionally backed Democratic candidates stay home in 2020, in order to improve his margins from 2016.

Black voters have overwhelmingly supported Democrats in recent elections, and exit polls in 2016 showed just 8 percent of black voters cast a ballot for Trump.

Multiple black officials spoke at Trump’s event on Friday, including Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben CarsonBenjamin (Ben) Solomon CarsonZoning is not the answer to all our housing problems Freer housing is ‘fairer housing’ — HUD should tie funding to looser zoning Clarence Thomas: There’s a ‘different sets of rules’ for criticizing me because I’m conservative MORE and Daniel Cameron, who earlier this week became the first black man to be elected attorney general in Kentucky.

Carson, the only black member of Trump’s Cabinet, thanked supporters for showing “courage” by attending.

“In this society that we live in today, it takes a lot of courage to say that you’re supporting President Trump,” he said. “It’s really quite interesting how people have tried to manipulate people and how to intimidate people and change their minds.”

Trump often points to his support of criminal justice reform, low unemployment and other economic indicators that he argues show his presidency has been a boon to African Americans.

But to win over more black voters Trump must contend with larger questions about his rhetoric, which has regularly been criticized as incendiary or outright racist.

He pushed the baseless conspiracy theory prior to campaigning for office that former President Obama was not born in the U.S.; he reportedly asked in early 2018 why the U.S. accepted so many immigrants from “shithole countries” in Africa; and late last month he compared the impeachment inquiry into his actions to a “lynching.”

Friday’s event attracted hundreds of protesters to Atlanta’s Centennial Park.

Carson in his opening remarks explicitly pushed back against charges of racism against Trump.

He cited recognition for Trump decades ago from the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the president’s place at the “forefront” of admitting Jews and blacks to clubs in Palm Beach, and his support of opportunity zones meant to aid struggling urban areas.

“If he’s a racist, he’s an awfully bad one,” Carson said. “He needs to go get a lesson from the real racists.”

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