Biden Campaign Confident As South Carolina Primary Approaches
Former Vice President Joe Biden’s supporters in South Carolina are not cutting and running after the candidate’s disappointing finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire.
In fact, canvassers going door-to-door in the neighborhoods of Charleston, South Carolina say what they’re hearing more than anything else in their travels is a message of “we stand with Joe.”
“We’re really excited,” an official with Biden’s South Carolina campaign said, speaking on background.
Eleven days out from South Carolina’s Feb. 29 primary, the first in the South, she told The Well News, volunteers are flowing in and out of the Biden team’s seven field offices eager to interact with voters on behalf of their candidate.
“We’ve got a lot of boots on the ground, knocking on doors, all day, every day,” she said, adding that at night, many of the same volunteers and others, devote additional time to making phone calls encouraging voters to support Joe Biden at the polls.
Following his fifth place finish in the New Hampshire primary, Biden brought his campaign to South Carolina, staking his hopes for a comeback on the loyalty of black voters in the state.
The turnout for the primary is expected to be more than 60% black and could approach 70%, according to state party leaders.
“I know this is going to be the fight of my life,” Biden told around 200 enthusiastic supporters gathered near the South Carolina Capitol last week.
Biden eagerly looked ahead as the nomination fight moves beyond the overwhelmingly white opening states to Nevada, South Carolina and a Super Tuesday slate where African Americans and Latinos will hold considerable sway.
“We just heard from the first two of 50 states. Two of them,” Biden said. “That’s the opening bell, not the closing bell.”
The official said since then the campaign “has heard pretty consistently that voters here have not been impacted by what’s happened in other states.”
“South Carolina voters are independent-minded and are going to do what they’re going to do,” she said. “So we feel really good here.”
Biden holds an 8-percentage-point lead over second place finisher Sen. Bernie Sanders, in an East Carolina University poll released Friday.
The pollsters found Biden has the support of 28 percent of likely South Carolina primary voters, followed by Sanders with 20 percent and businessman Tom Steyer with 14 percent. No other candidate broke double digits in the poll.
Biden is buoyed by strong support from black voters, 36 percent of whom favor him while 20 percent support Sanders. Another 17 percent back Steyer, who has invested heavily in winning over black support in the state.
The poll, which surveyed 703 likely voters from Feb. 12-13, has a margin of error of 4.3 percent.
Of course, it’s impossible to talk about the black vote in South Carolina without talking about the role the black church will play in the outcome. Not only do black churches throughout the state play host to candidate events, but they are at the center of their communities.
Tellingly, among the signs stapled to the wall of Biden’s Charleston field office is a handmade poster stating “Preachers Love Biden.”
“The African-American church is very important and in a number of ways,” the official said. “For instance, there are a lot of residents of our communities who don’t have transportation, and the church routinely provides them transportation to get them to service.
“On primary day, they provide the same transportation services to make sure those same folks get to the polls,” she said. “More importantly, the African-American church is like the nerve center of the community. So being able to engage different pastors is your window to connecting with those congregations.”
The campaign official went on to explain that Biden’s ties to the community are deep and go way, way back as the candidate has been traveling regularly to South Carolina since long before he was vice president.
“People often talk about how the residents of Pennsylvania long considered Sen. Biden their third senator, even though elected to represent neighboring Delaware,” she said. “I think a lot of people in South Carolina see him the same way. He’s just very, very familiar with the state and the voters are very familiar with him.”
This is one reason the campaign believes the recent impeachment of President Donald Trump was a net plus for Biden.
“I think it actually strengthened the former vice president’s support here … to be honest with you, it really proved staggering,” the official said. “Not only was President Trump attacking someone they knew in that phone call, but it showed that Trump was so afraid of facing Joe Biden in November that he was willing to risk impeachment to avoid it.”
She indicated the campaign will kick into a higher gear beginning Wednesday, when surrogates for the candidate begin making appearances throughout the state.
Biden himself is scheduled to arrive in South Carolina Sunday morning and to campaign aggressively across the state up to primary day.
“We feel really, really good,” the official said. “The voters continue to tell us the number one issue is beating Donald Trump, and beyond that what they most want is to vote for somebody they know and somebody they trust.
“A lot of the folks in this race are relatively newcomers and are having to spend a lot of time introducing themselves,” she said. “We’re a very well known commodity here in South Carolina. Voters here know Joe Biden and know they can trust him.”
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