Black voters could very well be the key to a Democratic presidential nomination for Joe Biden, a politician who had ties to the community even before he entered his political career.
Now, as he is vying for the coveted spot to take on Trump in the 2020 presidential race, many Black voters are backing him because “we feel like he’s got our back,” the Associated Press reports.
“He knew our plight, he knew how we felt,” said Richard “Mouse” Smith, who met Biden as a kid in Wilmington, Delaware’s Black community where Biden worked as a lifeguard during college, the Associated Press reports.
“He walked through gangs, learned all nicknames, he was part of this community,” said Smith, who remains one of Biden’s oldest and closest friends. “Joe had to be accountable to the Black leadership in this city. We made him.”
The Associated Press reports Biden remained a fixture in the Black community after his election to the U.S. Senate in 1972 when he was a regular at the annual NAACP dinner and a commencement speaker at the small, public HBCU, Delaware State University.
“It almost seemed like he had a unique familiarity with people who might not have been advantaged,” said Tony Allen, who served as Biden’s speechwriter and special assistant when Biden was in the Senate, the AP reports.
“He was always the last one to leave, making sure he connected with people and knew what their issues were. It’s kind of why a lot of African-Americans affectionately call him ‘Uncle Joe.’ We feel like he’s got our back, he’s gonna consult with us and make the right decision,” Allen went on to say.
Even with Biden’s campaign trail gaffes — like when he said “poor kids are just as bright and just as talented as white kids” or when he defended co-authoring the 1994 Crime Bill — there are still high-profile Black voters backing him, like Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.
Bottoms endorsed the 77-year-old politician this summer. When she joined him at a meeting with other Black mayors from the South who are considering which candidate to back, she explained the context of his comments about being able to work with segregationist-era senators early in his career, the AP reports.
“The larger context of it was that you have to work across the aisle with people you don’t like, people who you don’t agree with,” she said at the meeting, the AP reports. “I do it each and every day as mayor of Atlanta in a red state.”
Cedric Richmond, a Democratic congressman from Louisiana and the former head of the Congressional Black Caucus, approached Biden about running in 2020 within months of Trump’s victory, although Biden was unwilling to commit at that time, the AP reports.
Richmond credits Biden’s popularity with Black voters to their ability to discern authenticity and the vice president’s relatability that transcends race, the AP reports.
“If they look at his life, they understand although he’s white he’s had a life full of some very big ups, but some humongous downs,” Richmond said, adding that Barack Obama’s decision to choose Biden as his running mate sends a strong signal to Black voters, the AP reports.
In comparison to his cohorts among Democratic presidential hopefuls, Biden is bunched near the top of the pack in the overwhelmingly white early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire, the AP reports.
A new CNN/SSRS poll shows the Biden is leading the Democrats overall among potential Democratic voters nationwide with 28 percent, while Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are close for second at 17 percent and 14 percent respectively, and Mayor Pete Buttigieg is fourth at 11 percent.
In CNN’s last two national polls, Biden averaged 49 percent among all potential Black Democratic primary voters, a 35-point lead over his Democratic competitors, and a 10-point lead to beat all of them combined. CNN also found in polls over the last two months that Biden is pulling in around 60 percent of the vote among Black voters 45 years and older.
Biden is also better positioned in the more diverse states like South Carolina, where Black voters are a dominant force, and two-thirds of the electorate in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary was nonwhite, according to data provided by the South Carolina Election Commission.
In South Carolina, Biden is earning support from about 4 in 10 Black voters, according to a recent Monmouth University poll, the AP reports.
“We don’t want to lose,” Richmond said, according to the AP. “He’s our best chance and he was vice president to Barack Obama. The person he trusted the most was Joe Biden.”