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Trump courts Black voters in Philadelphia, asks Christians to back him one last time



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Adds false Trump claims of voter fraud; paragraph 10

By Nathan Layne and Gram Slattery

PHILADELPHIA, June 22 (Reuters) -Donald Trump made two speeches on Saturday, urging Christian supporters to go to the polls for him one last time and courting Black voters in Philadelphia by promising to fix a city "ravaged by bloodshed" even as data shows a decline in violent crime.

If elected in November, the Republican presidential candidate told a rally of several thousand at Philadelphia's Temple University, he would give police "immunity" to do their jobs and "surge" federal resources to cities battling violence.

Trump dismissed as "fake" FBI statistics that showed a continued drop in levels of violent crime and murder across the country in the first three months of 2024, and accused Democratic President Joe Biden of lying about the data.

"Under crooked Joe Biden the City of Brotherly Love is being ravaged by bloodshed and crime," Trump said in an arena in a historically Black neighborhood, addressing an audience more diverse than a typical rally, but still largely white.

"Under the Trump administration we are going to bring law and order and safety back to our streets."

The promise to fight crime was part of a larger pitch to Black and Hispanic people, who form more than half the city's population. The Trump campaign has been encouraged by some opinion polls showing he may be gaining ground with these voters this election cycle.

As he often does, Trump portrayed migrants in the country illegally as dangerous and burdensome. He claimed, without citing evidence, that they were taking jobs from Black and Hispanic workers.

"Joe Biden's open border has also been a disaster for our great African-American and Hispanic-American populations," Trump said.

Trump has little chance of winning Philadelphia, which Biden won easily in 2020. But he hopes to narrow the margin in the region, key to the tally in Pennsylvania, a hotly contested state because it can swing either to Republicans or Democrats.

Trump, who has falsely claimed that systematic cheating cost him Pennsylvania in 2020, told the crowd, "Philadelphia was one of the most egregious places anywhere" for voter fraud. "We are not going to let it happen again."

State lawmaker Malcolm Kenyatta, a Democrat, said Black voters remember Trump's history promoting the bigoted conspiracy theory that questioned whether Barack Obama, the first African American president, was born in the United States, and policies he pursued that hurt the Black working class.

"Donald Trump is in a Black place, but Donald Trump does not give a damn about Black people," Kenyatta said at a briefing at a Biden campaign office in Philadelphia before the rally.


CHRISTIAN VOTES

Trump and Biden will face off in the first presidential debate of the 2024 race in Atlanta on Thursday.

During a pre-rally stop at a cheesesteak shop in Philadelphia, Trump told supporters he knew whom he planned to choose as his running mate and that person was likely to be at the debate, a video posted to social media by a campaign spokesperson showed.

At an earlier event on Saturday in Washington organized by the Faith and Freedom Coalition, a conservative Christian group, the former president urged churchgoers to go to the polls for him one last time in November.

"Christians go to church, but they don't vote that much. You know the power you have if you would vote," Trump said. "You gotta get out and vote. Just this time. In four years you don't have to vote, OK? In four years don't vote, I don't care."

Trump briefly mentioned the politically sensitive issue of abortion, a topic important to the group, reiterating his position that curbs on the procedure should be decided by voters on a state-by-state basis.

That stance contradicts the view of most conservative Christians, and Trump's reticence to push for or even discuss additional federal regulations speaks to how sensitive the issue has become for Republicans.

Trump has repeatedly said Republicans risk electoral defeat if they take too tough a line on abortion rights.

The party's lacklustre performance in the 2022 congressional midterm elections has been widely blamed on the Supreme Court's Dobbs ruling that year, which removed most constitutional protections for the procedure.

"Like Ronald Reagan, I believe in exceptions for the life of the mother - rape and incest," Trump said. "You have to go with your heart. You have to also remember you have to get elected."

Trump's comments on abortion appeared to receive a lukewarm reception, with some in the crowd chanting "No dead babies!"

He drew applause with discussion of other proposals, such as scrapping the Department of Education, a measure favored by many conservative Christians who accuse the federal government of attacking faith-based teaching methods.



Reporting by Nathan Layne in Philadelphia and Gram Slattery in Washington;
Editing by Rod Nickel and Clarence Fernandez

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