May 29, 2020 - Politics & Policy

First look: Trump courts Asian American vote amid coronavirus

President Donald Trump on the White House South Lawn
Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

The president's re-election campaign debuts its "Asian Americans for Trump" initiative in a virtual event tonight, courting a slice of the nation's electorate that has experienced a surge in racism and harassment since the pandemic began.

The big question: How receptive will Asian American voters be in this moment? Trump has faced intense criticism for labeling COVID-19 the "Chinese virus" and the "Wuhan virus" and for appearing to compare Chinatowns in American cities to China itself.

Details: Lara Trump, a senior campaign adviser and the president's daughter-in-law, will host the virtual rollout on Team Trump Online, the campaign tells Axios.

  • The program will highlight ways Trump has helped Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) communities and small businesses during the coronavirus pandemic, via the CARES Act and the Paycheck Protection Program, one campaign official told Axios.
  • Arizona State Treasurer Kimberly Yee and Utah Attoreney General Sean Reyes are both co-chairs of the coalition.
  • Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao will also help kick off the event.

Between the lines: The campaign also sees the event as another opportunity to hammer China and show how Trump "continues to remain tough on their government," a key focus of the campaign in the lead up to November.

The big picture: Exit polls show Trump won just 18% of the AAPI vote in 2016, compared to Hillary Clinton's 79%. In February, a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee survey found that AAPI voters in battleground districts favor Democratic candidates to Trump by 28 points.

The other side: Joe Biden's campaign is also reaching out to Asian Americans during the pandemic. On Wednesday, NBC News published an op-ed from Biden and Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) that addressed the rise in xenophobia during coronavirus.

  • "The American story as we know it would not exist without the strength of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community," Biden and Duckworth wrote.
  • "No insult, no insinuation — even when it comes from the president in the middle of the Rose Garden telling an Asian American reporter to 'ask China' — can change the fact that Asian Americans are just as American as anyone else lucky enough to be a daughter or a son of the United States."

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to note that Trump has been criticized for his remarks.

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