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Black voters matter: Biden seeks South Carolina boost

If there’s one place US President Joe Biden can count on for support from Black voters, it is Toliver’s Mane Event barbershop in the South Carolina state capital Columbia.

A framed photo on the wall pictures the moment a smiling Biden visited the shop before his turnaround Democratic primary win in 2020.

“We think that he’s done a wonderful job,” says co-owner Christopher Toliver, 53, a viewpoint echoed by customers arriving for early morning appointments at this veritable institution for the city’s Black community.

Not everyone agrees. A number of polls have shown that Biden is losing ground with the Black voters who propelled him to the White House.

Biden has made it clear that South Carolina’s first-in-the-nation Democratic primary on Saturday — which as the incumbent he is all but certain to win — is a proving ground to show he can still win over African Americans.

Biden’s visit to the barbershop four years ago was no coincidence. Founded in 1976 by Christopher’s father Herbert, the clients who come in for a regular trim include the powerful Black Democratic congressman Jim Clyburn.

It was Clyburn whose endorsement in 2020 saved Biden’s flailing campaign by securing him the support of Black voters in South Carolina, and ultimately nationwide.

Biden returned the favor by moving South Carolina to the front of the primary calendar for 2024.

And he has been attempting to recapture the 2020 magic, telling a largely Black audience during one of his two South Carolina visits this year that “you’re the reason Donald Trump is a defeated former president.”.

But surveys suggest some Black voters, especially the young, are frustrated by what they see as Biden’s failure to tackle priorities on the economy and on voter rights. Others are just not excited by a second dose of the 81-year-old.

A New York Times/Siena poll in November found 71 percent of Black voters in six battleground states would back Biden — down drastically from 91 percent in 2020 — and 22 percent would back Trump despite his racially charged rhetoric.

Reclining in a barbers chair as 78-year-old Herbert Toliver trims his hair, pastor Charles Jackson says the Biden campaign may not be spreading the message about his achievements.

“It’s as if the word is not getting out as much as it should among the African American community,” said Jackson, senior pastor at Brookland Baptist Church, where Biden spoke during a trip last week.

The Biden campaign is now throwing everything it has at South Carolina — despite the fact that it’s a Republican state no Democrat has won since Jimmy Carter in 1976.

A marching band noisily heralded the arrival of Vice President Kamala Harris to a campaign event on Friday at South Carolina State University in Orangeburg, one of hundreds of historically Black colleges in the United States.

“President Biden and I are counting on you to make your voices heard,” she said to cheers, adding that Trump had “stoked the fires of hate and bigotry and racism.”

In January, Biden spoke at a church in Charleston where a white supremacist killer shot dead nine Black parishioners.

Behind their visits is a knowledge that turnout may well decide November’s US election.

Pollsters believe floating voters are rare in the current, highly polarized US electorate, meaning that candidates must mobilize core supporters despite widespread apathy to a Trump-Biden rematch.

Biden however should not make any assumptions, says Cliff Albright, co-founder and executive director of the Black Voters Matter group.

Danny Kemp, "Black voters matter: Biden seeks South Carolina boost," Business recorder. 2024-02-05.
Keywords: Political sciences , Political issues , Black voters , Black community , Election , South Carolina , Joe Biden , Donald Trump , Kamala Harris , Charles Jackson , US

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