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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Some of the leading Democratic presidential campaigns can barely articulate how they're specifically trying to reach black millennials ahead of 2020 —  a group that Democrats say is the future and face of their party.

Why it matters: "Donald Trump's campaign is handing out literature in black barbershops right now; they’re doing micro-targeting on Facebook and have a digital strategy to engage black folks," said Rashad Robinson, president of Color of Change.

  • "The Democrats would serve themselves really well to understand in deep ways the power in intersectionality. ... [B]eing specific and clear will help people understand you're not just talking around them or at them, but talking to them."

Some Democrats — like Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg — are visiting Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), hoping to turn black students into black organizers for their campaigns. 

  • That's definitely a good place to find black millennials, but of course it's not the only place. 
  • Still, it's significant that there's a heightened presence on HBCU campuses in this cycle compared to past cycles.

Others are going on shows like "Desus and Mero" (Mayor Pete) or publishing articles on websites like The Root and The Grio (Harris and Warren), aiming to be in the places where black millennials are watching and reading. 

Several campaigns said they're trying peer-to-peer texting, but that's not new and it's not like black millennials are on their phones more than others in 2019.

  • Harris' team, however, uses a separate text template for HBCU students.
  • Their goal, per a campaign aide, is to "actually speak like them, look like them, and be culturally relevant to them."

The big picture: Given their low participation rates in recent election cycles, the jury's still out on whether this is enough to mobilize black millennials in 2020.

But one thing is clear: they're an untapped well of political power, and Democrats and Trump alike are trying to figure out how to capture their attention — and eventually their votes.

Other campaigns can only point to more general measures.

  • Beto O'Rourke's campaign cites his voting rights proposal, which would help young people get registered to vote as soon as they turn 18. But they also point to O'Rourke calling Trump a white supremacist and his viral moment in 2018 talking about the larger racial context behind NFL players kneeling during the national anthem.
  • "For black millennials, there's so much interest in and hunger for this type of honest and strong condemnation of what the president is doing," said Ian Wilhite, an O'Rourke campaign aide.

And some, like Joe Biden's campaign, say this isn't something they're "ready to talk about right now."

  • Update ... After this story posted, a Biden aide added: "[T]he campaign will roll out a higher education policy proposal down the road that will include a component for HBCUs."
  • The Democratic National Committee, when asked about how they're targeting black millennials this cycle, provided information on their initiatives to reach out to African American voters and younger voters — but not young black voters.

What to watch: 30% of black millennials surveyed by the University of Chicago's Gen Forward project said they feel the Democratic Party doesn't care about them. That's a lot of votes to write off.

Editor's note: This piece has been clarified to show Rashad Robinson is president of Color of Change and spokesperson for Color of Change PAC.

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Sports

Swimmer Chase Kalisz first American to win Olympics gold medal

Chase Kalisz of Team United States celebrates after winning the Men's 400m Individual Medley Final on day two of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre in Tokyo, Japan. Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images

Swimmer Chase Kalisz became on Sunday the first Team USA Olympian to win gold at the Tokyo Games.

The big picture: The Rio 2016 silver medalist's winning time in the men's 400 meters Individual Medley Final was 4 minutes 9.42 seconds. His teammate Jay Litherland took silver .86 seconds later.

California's largest wildfire razes homes as 88 huge blazes burn in U.S.

Firefighters on the scene as dozens of homes burn during the Dixie Fire in the Indian Falls neighborhood of unincorporated Plumas County, California, on July 24. Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images

Flames from California's biggest wildfire were engulfing homes in the state's north overnight — one of 88 large blazes raging in the U.S.

Driving the news: The Dixie Fire, which erupted July 14 near the origin of the deadly 2018 Camp Fire in Butte County, was tearing through the community of Indian Falls in the neighboring Plumas County, per AP.

Golfer Bryson DeChambeau will miss Olympics after testing positive for COVID

Bryson DeChambeau of the United States on the 18th tee during Day Two of the 149th Open at Royal St George’s Golf Club on July 16 in Sandwich, England. Photo: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Bryson DeChambeau has tested positive for COVID-19 and will miss the Tokyo Olympic Games, USA Golf announced late Saturday.

What he's saying: "I am deeply disappointed not to be able to compete in the Olympics for Team USA," DeChambeau said in a statement.