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The Trump campaign is trying to recruit young voters of color

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

It's one of the big issues of this presidential race. Will young voters, especially young voters of color, stay home or turn out to vote? The campaign of the Republican front-runner, former President Donald Trump, senses opportunity and is trying to appeal to voters that might traditionally lean Democrat. Joining us to discuss is Tina Nguyen, a national correspondent for Puck News. She's also just out with a memoir, "The MAGA Diaries." Welcome to the show.

TINA NGUYEN: Thanks for having me, Ayesha.

RASCOE: What does the Trump campaign's outreach to young voters of color look like?

NGUYEN: There are a vast wealth of conservative, right-leaning, anti-mainstream podcasts that target young Latino voters, young Asian voters, definitely young Black voters. And it's not so much that there is one person they're sending out into these communities being like, hello, I am hip with the youths. Vote for Donald Trump - as it is get this content out to as many people in these worlds as possible and then have them independently talk, either about how great Donald Trump is, which is not, like, the most popular attack, but mostly about how bad Biden and the rest of the Democrats are. And the more that Trump leans into, look - I was your crazy uncle back in the day, but isn't Biden worse? - is more effective than people realize.

RASCOE: What are some of those topics of dissatisfaction that they are tapping into when it comes to Biden?

NGUYEN: I think the biggest one is, I guess, quote, unquote, "wokeism." Let's take Black voters drifting towards Trump. I think the most endemic, like, highest-profile example of this would be Candace Owens, who is a Black commentator for The Daily Wire and has hammered home this idea of, look. Just because I'm Black, that doesn't mean that I need to fall into the Democratic tropes of what it is that I want as a voter.

But her message has really, like, started to get a broader appeal with younger voters and definitely with young male Black voters. Let's put it this way - she was very close to Kanye West. She actually showed up with him at Paris Fashion Week, and they were both wearing shirts that said White Lives Matter. That's sort of an encapsulation of that specific message.

RASCOE: You kind of came up in this movement in its early stages as a college student and then working for Tucker Carlson. What was the appeal to you?

NGUYEN: It's an interesting thing to try to explain to people. So you have to keep in mind this was 2008, 2009, right after the Bush era, right during the Obama era. There was, like, a very significant demographic that recoiled towards the forever wars of Bushism and then kind of freaked out when Obama came in and started using federal dollars to bail out banks.

And once you start going a little bit right leaning, it's one thing to exist as a right-leaning person who's reading all these magazines back in the day, and then it's another thing altogether for this door to open into the professional world of being a right-wing operative, activist, political figure. And "The MAGA Diaries," my book, goes really deep into what that career networking system looks like. It's far more effective and far older than I think people in the mainstream or outside of conservative network world quite understand.

RASCOE: Obviously, you know, all of this is going to come down to the presidential election in November. How important could young voters of color be for Trump or Biden?

NGUYEN: The states that swung towards Biden and away from Trump were won on, like, the thinnest of margins, maybe 10,000, like, 7,000, 9,000 in the last election alone. And it's not so much about winning a large percentage of young minority voters. It is winning enough of them to get you over the finish line at that point and the better coalition you can build of young people who might actually gravitate towards a Trump message, older minorities who would gravitate towards a Trump message. And ignoring the creative ways that the right and the conservative movement are making inroads with minority groups is absolutely at the Democrats' peril.

RASCOE: That's Tina Nguyen, author of "The MAGA Diaries." Thank you so much for joining us.

NGUYEN: Thanks for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHILLY GONZALES' "DOT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.

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