Who is Bruce LeVell? Donald Trump's Debate Guest Is Trying To Improve His Standing Among Minority Voters
Watching the first presidential debate Monday night, you might see a new face in the crowd. Prominent Georgia Republican Bruce LeVell will attend the debate as Donald Trump's guest. LeVell, who endorsed Trump last fall, serves as executive director of the National Diversity Coalition for Trump, an organization that aims to "recruit, mobilize, and educate voters to help us elect Donald Trump in November." Its board also includes Omarosa Manigault of The Apprentice fame, among others, and lists on its website an advisory board of Americans of many different ethnicities and faiths. LeVell's attendance at the debate comes at a time when the Trump campaign is reportedly prioritizing outreach to black voters and roughly one month after Trump made headlines for asking the black community to vote for him, asking, "What do you have to lose by trying something new?"
LeVell, along with other staffers at the National Diversity Coalition for Trump, also attended the Republican National Convention earlier this summer, when he proudly told Esquire that he expected Trump to "break the record for the most African-Americans to ever vote for a Republican president in the history of the United States. And Latinos."
LeVell was formerly the chairman of the GOP in Gwinett County, Georgia and also owns a Georgia jewelry store. He attended Trump's widely-discussed meeting with a group of black ministers in late 2015, though LeVell himself is not a pastor.
LeVell has also appeared repeatedly on CNN's Tonight with Don Lemon to discuss Trump's record on black issues, arguing that Trump understands black voters:
You take the time to go out to Trump Towers and visit all the people who work for him, African-Americans, women, all over the world, and you're gonna sit there and tell me he doesn't understand African-Americans? Dude, are you serious?
Are LeVell's efforts to improve Trump's standing with black Americans and other groups working? Trump's poll numbers with blacks and other minority groups appear to remain rather low: the LA Times currently indicates that roughly 14.4 percent of black Americans intend to support Trump. Depending on how you look at it, though, even that relatively low figure could be interpreted as progress: one poll earlier this summer placed the level of black support for Trump at zero percent.
One impediment to Trump's ability to reach minority voters — and to LeVell's efforts to improve that standing — is Trump's history of support for the debunked birther movement, which claimed that President Obama was born abroad. After years of supporting birtherism, Trump finally conceded recently that Obama was born in the United States, though his history of promoting the theory may well come up as a question during tonight's debate. It makes sense, then, that LeVell would be invited to Monday's debate, because much of his coalition's ability to persuade minority voters may depend on his candidate's performance tonight.