Black people are on my side now because I’m a victim of discrimination, claims Trump

Donald Trump arrives at a rally in South Carolina on the eve of the state's primary
Donald Trump arrives at a rally in South Carolina on the eve of the state's primary - CHRIS CARLSON/AP

Donald Trump has claimed black people are “on my side now” because they see him as a victim of discrimination, as he attempts to woo minority voters away from Joe Biden.

“I got indicted for nothing, for something that is nothing,” the former US president said of his four criminal cases.

“And a lot of people said that’s why the black people like me, because they have been hurt so badly and discriminated against, and they actually viewed me as I’m being discriminated against.”

Mr Trump was addressing a gathering of black conservatives in South Carolina on the eve of the state’s Republican primary, which he was projected to carry by a double-digit margin over his last remaining GOP rival, Nikki Haley.

Polls forecast Ms Haley losing her home state, where she served two terms as governor, by around 27 points.

Defeat could change Haley’s calculations

Despite heavily trailing Mr Trump, his former ambassador to the UN has received thousands of donations, including from former Biden donors, in recent weeks.

She raised $9.8 million in January, $1 million more than Mr Trump’s campaign reported bringing in last month.

Meanwhile, Mr Trump’s campaign spent at least $11 million last month, as his legal bills continue to mount.

Ms Haley, 52, has vowed to stay in the race until at least “Super Tuesday” on March 5, when 15 states vote, but a humiliating rejection by the voters who know her best may change that calculation.

Speaking before Saturday night’s result, Karoline Leavitt, the Trump campaign’s national press secretary, told The Telegraph the former president was “feeling terrific”.

“We are so excited for President Trump to have another big victory tonight,” Ms Leavitt said.

Trump has switched focus to Biden

“We feel really confident that our winning message and our unmatched ground game and the overwhelming support that he has from local and national Republican representatives from the state will propel us to victory.”

Mr Trump, 77, has already switched his focus to his likely rematch with Mr Biden in November’s general election.

His team believes he is gaining strength among African-American voters, who were credited with powering Mr Biden’s 2020 victory.

They have cited Mr Biden’s faltering poll numbers with African Americans, exacerbated by frustrations with the cost of living and record numbers of people crossing the US-Mexico border, many of whom have been bussed to cities with large black populations.

At the black-tie event organised by the Black Conservative Federation in Columbia, South Carolina, Mr Trump said black voters “understand better than most” the “evils” of “corrupt systems”.

He told the crowd: “You understand that. I think that’s why the black people are so much on my side now because they see what’s happening to me happens to them.”

The freewheeling address mixed Mr Trump’s stump speech staples with direct appeals to black voters.

His jokes touching on race were seized on for mockery by the Biden campaign, but did attract some laughter from the audience.

“The lights are so bright in my eyes I can’t see too many people out there,” Mr Trump said. “I can only see the black ones. I can’t see any white ones. That’s how far I’ve come.”

Biden campaign mocks pitch to black voters

A Biden campaign social media account posted a clip of another part of his speech, with the caption: “Trump claims he knows Black people because they built his buildings”.

Mr Trump also mocked the president in his speech, impersonating him stumbling around a stage.

He said: “This guy can’t find his way off a stage” in a dig at Mr Biden’s repeated teetering in recent months.

“Some people say Biden’s going to make it,” Mr Trump said. Does anybody think he’s going to make it to the starting gate?”

Mr Trump affected a confused state as he doddered around the podium to enthusiastic laughs and cheers from the crowd.

“The guy can’t find his way off of a stage. Look here’s the stage – if I walk left there’s a stair, and if I walk right there’s a stair, and this guy [President Biden] gets up and [says], ‘Where the hell am I? Where am I?’”

Mr Trump said he was “much tougher” on Mr Biden, 81, since he had taken office.

“Nah, he’s terrible. You know I’m much tougher on him than I used to be out of respect for the office – I was never like him,” he said. “He’s the most corrupt president, the most incompetent president we’ve ever had.”

Mr Trump was due to address a gathering of the Republican Party faithful in Maryland on Saturday night with a star turn at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

The grassroots event - an annual staple in the GOP calendar - has become an opportunity for officials to demonstrate their fealty to Mr Trump, and audition for a role in his potential second term.

CPAC’s straw poll, which concludes the four-day event, will include a question about potential vice presidential pick.