Source: CNN

Former President Donald Trump lately has dangled some very specific promises to his audiences.

At a Las Vegas campaign rally on Sunday, for example, Trump pledged to exempt tips from income taxes, a proposal tailor-made for the hundreds of thousands of people working in America’s tourism capital.

Speaking at the Libertarian convention a couple weeks earlier, Trump vowed to put one of the party’s own in his cabinet and more throughout his government if reelected to the White House — an assurance that briefly halted the cacophony of boos that confronted him there. And before that, Trump professed to Michigan autoworkers his plans to unravel President Joe Biden’s policies supporting electric vehicles, insisting it will protect their livelihoods.

As Trump goes around the country in search of new supporters, he is leaving behind explicit guarantees for voters to consider. Often, the target audience is a demographic his campaign has singled out for its potential to sway a race both sides expect will be won on the margins.

Trump’s pledge to end taxes on tips came on the same day his campaign announced Latino Americans for Trump, an initiative to mobilize one of the fastest-growing voting blocs in the country. In Nevada, one in four workers are employed by the hospitality industry and about one in five residents are Hispanic – with considerable overlap between the two groups.

“For those hotel workers and people that get tips, you’re going to be very happy because when I get to office, we are going to not charge taxes on tips,” Trump said during the rally.

A Republican presidential candidate hasn’t won Nevada in two decades, and Latino Americans voted 2-to-1 for Biden four years ago. But Trump’s campaign has prioritized flipping Nevada and the Democratic Party’s historical advantage in Latino communities, and polling suggests they have made progress on both fronts.

For Trump, the transactional outreach is illustrative of a candidate whose penchant for dealmaking in the business world has informed his approach to politics. And it’s a tactic he has also deployed to keep long-time supporters happy as well. Speaking at the National Rifle Association last month, Trump pledged to fire the country’s top firearms regulator and said he would sign legislation forcing states to recognize a concealed carry permit from any jurisdiction.

But his pitches have been met with criticism from his political opponents, who have accused the former president of pandering for votes, if not something more untoward. Senate Democrats recently launched an investigation after the Washington Post reported Trump had promised oil and energy executives at recent fundraisers that he would make it easier for them to operate if he won another turn in the White House.

“Time and time again, both Mr. Trump and the U.S. oil and gas industry have proved they are willing to sell out Americans to pad their own pockets,” Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, and Senate Budget Committee Chair Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat, wrote in a statement.

And in a blistering statement, Culinary Workers Union Local 226, the powerful Nevada union representing the state’s hospitality workers, assailed Trump’s latest proposal on tips and taxes as “wild campaign promises from a convicted felon.”

Though Trump said he would “not charge taxes on tips” when he gets into office, any change would require congressional approval.

Trump’s campaign confirmed the former president intends to seek a legislative change.

“President Trump will ask Congress to eliminate taxes on tips,” spokesperson Karoline Leavitt told CNN. “Joe Biden has aggressively stepped up the IRS going after tip workers.”

The attempted outreach comes after Trump as president angered restaurant and hotel workers by changing the rules to allow employers to determine how to distribute tips among employees.

Most politicians make promises to win support. Biden’s 2020 victory came on a pledge to forgive student loan debt, ban the commercial sale of military-style firearms and rescind Trump’s travel ban from Muslim countries. (Biden has delivered on overturning Trump’s Muslim travel policies and has moved unilaterally to erase some student loans after the Supreme Court blocked a more expansive forgiveness program, but he has not made headway on an assault weapons ban).

Trump has published an entire website to host many of his proposals for a second term. They include a pledge to fund free online classes for all Americans with billions of dollars seized from private university endowments, plans to charter 10 new “freedom” cities on federal land and calls for police agencies to adopt controversial “stop-and-frisk” policies or risk losing federal dollars.

But Trump’s history of latching onto causes when it suits his political objectives has made skeptics among some the former president is now attempting to persuade.

Take wind energy, for example. At the start of his presidency, Trump’s administration pursued an aggressive expansion of offshore wind farms as part of a broader push to “unleash the forces of economic innovation to more fully develop and explore our ocean economy.”

But speaking in Wildwood, New Jersey, in May, Trump described wind farms as “horrible” and accused turbines of killing birds and whales. He said he would “make sure that ends on day one” if reelected. The remarks effectively injected the former president directly into a local fight over the future of green energy in the Garden State just as he said his campaign was making a play to turn the Democratic stronghold red.

Chase Oliver, the Libertarian Party presidential nominee, called Trump a “charlatan grifter” moments after the former president addressed his party’s convention last month.

In addition to offering administrative posts to Libertarians in his effort to win them over, Trump also promised convention attendees he would release Ross Ulbricht, the founder of the underground website Silk Road who is serving a life sentence in prison for facilitating $200 million in transactions for unlawful goods and services, including drugs linked to overdose deaths. In a 2015 news release about his sentencing, the US Department of Justice said Ulbricht solicited six murders-for-hire while operating the site.

Ulbricht has become a cause celebre of Libertarians, and “Free Ross” signs were omnipresent at last month’s convention. Trump’s promise to commute Ulbricht’s sentence was met with raucous cheers.

But Trump also has said drug traffickers should get the death penalty, and he declined during his first term to release Ulbricht, a point raised by many Libertarians in attendance that night.

“Now, make no mistake, I have no love for Joe Biden, but he didn’t even think to come on this stage and pretend to be a Libertarian because he knows the truth: he isn’t one,” Oliver said. “But Donald Trump needs to know that message loud and clear.”

The room erupted in cheers.

Still, Trump’s outreach to unconventional audiences has forced Biden and Democrats to redouble their efforts with groups once considered a bedrock of party support. The president recently launched Black Voters for Biden-Harris in battlegrounds amid an increasingly urgent push to energize African Americans and stave off Trump’s courtship of Black men.

“While we are busy putting in the work to earn Black America’s support, Donald Trump continues to show just how ignorant he is,” Biden deputy campaign manager Quentin Fulks said. “Hosting janky rap concerts doesn’t hide the fact that he lacks the resources and competence to genuinely engage our community.”

The inroads made by the former president with union households has created headwinds for Biden in Michigan, a state crucial to his chances of recapturing the White House.

During a September rally in Detroit, Trump courted autoworkers by insisting electric vehicles would be made overseas and vowed to upend Biden administration efforts to help American car companies produce more of them.

“Do me a favor, just get your union guys, your leaders, to endorse me,” Trump told the crowd. “And I’ll take care of the rest.”

United Auto Workers ultimately endorsed Biden, and its president, Shawn Fain, called Trump “a scab.” But a Fox News poll from April shows Biden leading Trump among union households in Michigan by just 12 points – a significant decline from his lead four years ago.

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