Young, Black and Republican: House conservative aims to win Black voters over with cognac and cigars

May 15, 2024 | Latest News | 0 comments

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FIRST ON FOX — Republicans are ramping up efforts to reach out to Black voters as a critical November election approaches, with President Biden, a Democrat, appearing to lose support with minorities. 

Rep. Wesley Hunt, R-Texas, is spearheading an initiative to recruit Black voters, particularly Black men, into the party’s fold after former President Trump in 2020 showed surprising strength with that traditionally Democratic constituency. Hunt told Fox News Digital in an exclusive interview that Trump’s popularity with Black men is a “phenomenon,” and shared his view that the GOP has an opportunity to win a new generation of voters — if they show up where they are.

Republicans need to “fish where the fish are,” Hunt said: “Our party doesn’t always go to the Black community. I’ve been Black my whole life, man. Growing up — my family is from New Orleans, I grew up here in Houston. And it dawned on me that whenever you look around, you don’t see any Republicans actually taking what we want as a party to the Black community.” 

Hunt aims to change that with a series of events he’s calling “Congress, Cognac, and Cigars.” Throughout the summer, the Texas representative will host conversations inviting Black men who live in minority-majority cities in swing states to hear how Republicans will lead on issues that matter to all Americans. 

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The first event will take place on Tuesday, June 4th in Philadelphia and will feature a discussion between Hunt and his friend and college Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., with former NFL sideline reporter Michele Tafoya as moderator. Similar events will follow in Atlanta, Ga, Detroit, Mich. Milwaukee, Wisc., Charlotte, N.C. and other cities in states key to winning the 2024 presidential election.

The initiative comes as recent polls have showed minority voters appearing to sour on President Biden. The surveys, released Monday by the New York Times, Siena College and the Philadelphia Inquirer, show Trump with the lead in five of the six key battleground sates where he was narrowly defeated by Biden four years ago. 

Especially concerning for Democrats is the polls found Biden leading Trump among Black voters 63% to 23%, which would be a sharp drop from the 87% of Black voters who supported Biden in 2020 and helped him flip Georgia and other swing states. If the results stand on election day, Trump winning more than 20% of the Black vote would be the highest level of backing by Black voters of a GOP presidential candidate in generations. 

Hunt argues the tide is now turning in favor of Trump and Republicans. 

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“President Trump in 2020 got 18.2% of the Black male vote. That’s almost 20%. To put that in perspective, [2008 Republican nominee] John McCain got roughly 4% of the Black male vote. So what you’re seeing is exponential growth,” Hunt said. “And if we could turn that 20% into 25%, which is very likely at this point, now we’re having a very different conversation.” 

Hunt acknowledged that the dramatic political realignment he described “doesn’t happen overnight.” But he said the seed is planted because Biden has been “a horrible president in the Black community,” pointing to high inflation and the border crisis. 

Inflation rose again in April, with wholesale prices climbing another 2.2%, the highest level since April 2023, according to a Labor Department report released Tuesday. The report comes one day before the Biden administration will release the closely watched consumer price index (CPI), which measures prices paid directly by consumers. That report is expected to show inflation rose 0.4% in April from the previous month and climbed 3.4% from the same time last year.

“What you hear a lot is President Biden harps about how great the stock market is right now. Well yeah, that’s good if you have the kind of capital for investments. But everyday middle class workers that make under $80,000 a year are getting absolutely destroyed,” Hunt said, citing rising costs for eggs, bacon and other groceries. 

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“The Black community is hypersensitive to that because the Black community is in a lower socioeconomic demographic than the average American,” he added.

Fox News political analyst Gianno Caldwell said it is “critically important” for Republicans to be present in the Black community if they hope to win their support.

“Republicans don’t win in many of these areas because they don’t show up, and that’s what’s been the problem,” Caldwell said. 

He agreed with Hunt’s assessment that the Democratic Party’s stronghold on the Black vote is loosening as living costs rise and illegal immigrants receive millions of taxpayer dollars in benefits denied to American citizens. 

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“It’s beginning to fall apart with Joe Biden … with migrants coming from all over the world into particular communities and resources being usurped in those communities,” said Caldwell, mentioning his hometown of Chicago as an example. 

Matt Shupe, a Republican communications strategist and principal of Praetorian Public Relations, said Hunt and other Republicans would be wise to expand the party’s reach into places where the GOP has traditionally been risk-averse. 

“Republicans should be campaigning everywhere, all the time, and to all voters, especially to voters that typically don’t vote Republican. Politics is about addition, not stagnation. We cannot afford to cede entire demographic groups; we will eventually wither away from attrition,” Shupe said.

“What Rep. Hunt and Rep. Donalds are doing is great. We need more ‘brand ambassadors’ like them to go outside their districts and speak to voters who don’t typically hear from Republicans,” he added. 

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The “Congress, Cognac, and Cigars” tour is Hunt’s own initiative and is not an official program of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), which seeks to elect Republicans to the House of Representatives. But the NRCC has launched a multi-million-dollar “Battle Station Program” that has set up field offices in 25 swing districts where Republicans hold office, with plans to add 20 offices in challenger districts once the primary season ends.

“Republicans can compete anywhere when we recruit candidates who share a similar life story and experiences as the people they are running to represent. Wesley Hunt is a critical partner in expanding the GOP’s outreach to minority voters,” said NRCC National Press Secretary Will Reinert.

Connecticut’s 5th Congressional District is a prime NRCC target, where former State Senator George Logan, who is Black, is expected to win the Republican primary and challenge Rep. Jahana Hayes, D-Conn. If Logan wins, he would join a small but growing number of Black Republicans serving in the House. 

Winning over a constituency that has backed the Democratic Party with super majorities since the Great Depression is no small task. But Hunt noted that between the 117th and 118th Congress, the number of Black Republicans elected doubled from two to four. He argues small, incremental changes will come as Black voters see young, enthusiastic Republicans like himself and Donalds, both under 45, engaging their communities and meeting them where they are. 

“This is the Republican Party today, and the reason why it’s the Republican Party today is the growth that we have seen over the course of the past few generations that created a Wesley Hunt,” Hunt said. 

“So now Wesley Hunt has got to tell the Black community this: I know what your grandparents went through. I know what your parents went through. But this is a true meritocracy today. And my generation doesn’t have any ties to Jim Crow. We have ties to a low mortgage. We have ties to feeling safe. We have ties to border security. We have ties to lower inflation. 

“We have developed a meritocracy, so let’s act like it — and the Republican Party is the one that wants to treat everyone fairly, and the Democratic Party is the party that wants to pick winners and losers,” Hunt said. “And that’s not America.” 

Fox News Digital’s Paul Steinhauser and Fox Business’ Megan Henney contributed to this update.

Get the latest updates from the 2024 campaign trail, exclusive interviews and more at our Fox News Digital election hub.

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