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Trump campaign to open 'engagement centers' to woo black voters in 15 cities

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President Trump's re-election campaign is opening "engagement centers" in 1
President Trump's re-election campaign is opening "engagement centers" in 15 cities to highlight the administration's record.   -   Copyright  Monica Alba NBC News
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ARLINGTON, Va. — President Trump's re-election campaign announced Wednesday that it is planning to open 15 community centers in critical battleground states next month aimed at boosting African-American support heading into the 2020 election.

These new retail-style spaces are technically field offices, staffed by Trump Victory — the joint committee between the campaign and the Republican National Committee — and will be located in "high-traffic areas" where black voters can walk in and learn about the president's agenda.

"Last time it was 'what the hell do you have to lose?' Now, we're going to show them what they've gained from President Trump and what more they could gain if they get more four years," said White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, who continues to play a key role in the campaign's strategic decisions.

The locations for these "Black Voices for Trump" spaces include Detroit, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Miami, Charlotte and Atlanta; notably in all their top-tier target states: Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Florida, North Carolina and Georgia.

Wednesday's announcement comes as the campaign is currently signing leases and hopes to open the "engagement centers" by mid-March. Voters who walk into these offices will be met with literature, videos, and even some merchandise for volunteers.

The "unprecedented" effort to be involved in cities where African-American turnout could be critical is partially a response to some past Republican campaigns not prioritizing minority groups, senior campaign officials explained.

"You're never going to get the votes you don't ask for," Kushner told reporters at the campaign's Virginia headquarters where several senior officials, including campaign manager Brad Parscale, presented a mock-up of one of these spaces.

The main pillars of this new brick-and-mortar initiative mirror those of the White House, including an emphasis on criminal justice reform, historically black colleges and universities, school choice and entrepreneurship.

Senior campaign officials cited a "huge uptick" in support from black voters in recent months, specifically tied to outreach from the re-election effort. The outreach has included a Super Bowl ad that featured Alice Marie Johnson, an African-American woman whose sentence was commuted by Trump. The president also made a direct appeal to black voters during his State of the Union speech last month.

The campaign claims internal data shows they are now in a far better position with this critical voting bloc than they were at this point in 2016 when Trump won less than 10 percent of black voters nationwide.

Aides also point out that they "have not spent a dollar yet on persuasion" and are encouraged by the response they've seen in recent months.

Littered throughout the merchandise and signage that will be available in these centers is the word "woke," a cultural notion the campaign argues it is attempting to "take back."

"Republicans haven't even gone in to deliver their message. Now we have a Republican who is actually going to the community to deliver the message and ask for the vote," said senior campaign adviser Katrina Pierson. "It's the same concept as being asleep for so long to the truth and now you are awake."

The campaign said it plans to launch additional community centers in the coming months, likely continuing with a "Latinos for Trump" initiative in key swing states.