Black women are often considered the “backbone” of the Democratic Party, but Black men could play an equally crucial role in the upcoming presidential election. In 2016, 13% of African-American men voted for President Trump compared to 4% of African-American women.
Those data points are not lost on the Biden campaign, which unveiled a series of testimonial-style ads Monday featuring African-American men “chopping it up” inside a black-owned barbershop in North Carolina.
CBS News got an exclusive preview of some of the ads, which will air on television and digital platforms nationally and in the battleground states of Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
Campaign officials say they address the concerns Black Americans may have about the possibility of Mr. Trump winning a second term.
“We see what this President’s currently doing. We’ve got 170,000 Americans dead because of COVID. There’s this lack of trust,” a man named Antoine says to a group of men seated in socially-distanced barber chairs around the shop.
Another man chimes in, saying, “This country is starving for good leadership right now.”
The 30-second spot, entitled “Trust,” builds on the campaign’s “ShopTalk” series, an initiative that has also featured roundtables to engage Black men.
A second ad, “Get This Right,” touts Biden’s plan on criminal justice reform, including ending mandatory minimum sentences and changes to private prisons and cash bail.
“I believe my criminal reform justice package is as strong, or stronger, than anyone else, than anyone has proposed,” Biden declares in a clip.
He faced scrutiny for authoring the 1994 crime bill during his tenure in the Senate. Some critics argue it was too tough on Black communities and led to mass incarceration.
Kamau Marshall, Director of Strategic Communications for the Biden-Harris campaign, says the ads highlight the candidates’ proposals for “real change.”
“These latest ads showcase genuine conversations happening across the country about those plans amongst families and friends, during a critical time” Marshall said.
The Trump campaign unveiled a new radio ad last week contrasting the president’s record with Biden’s on issues ranging from criminal justice reform to the economy.
It is running in eleven urban markets including Detroit and Flint in Michigan and Raleigh and Charlotte in North Carolina, according to campaign manager Bill Stepien. The multi-state buy also includes Minnesota, Wisconsin, Georgia and Florida.
The ad is narrated by the two of the campaign’s prominent African-American male surrogates — former football star Herschel Walker and Georgia State Representative Vernon Jones. Both spoke at the Republican National Convention.
“I’ve known Donald Trump for 37 years. He keeps right on fighting to improve the lives of Black Americans,” Walker says.
Jones adds, “I’m a lifelong Democrat and I’m part of a large and growing segment of the Black community who are independent thinkers and we believe that Donald Trump is the president that America needs to lead us forward.”
Mr. Trump won 8% of the overall Black vote in 2016 and campaign officials have pointed to recent polls that indicate rising support for the president following the convention. A CBS News Battleground Tracker last month poll showed Biden leading Mr. Trump among likely Black voters 90% to 6%.
While Biden’s support among Black voters is overwhelming, the Trump campaign is hoping to chip away at it enough to help tilt some crucial swing states in the president’s direction.