Trailing Democrats tout strength with black voters ahead of South Carolina

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Several of the Democratic presidential candidates who have trailed in the first three primary states are touting their strength with African American voters ahead of Saturday’s South Carolina primary. 

Former Vice President Joe Biden, who has staked his campaign on the idea that he’ll fare better in more diverse states after disappointing finishes in the overwhelmingly white Iowa and New Hampshire, said Sunday he predicts he’ll do well in South Carolina and the subsequent Super Tuesday states. 

Biden finished second on Saturday in Nevada, the first majority-minority state to vote, behind Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

The former vice president’s prediction for South Carolina comes despite a drop in African American support ahead of the state’s primary. He attributed the drop in support to his billionaire opponent Tom Steyer, who has been spending time and money appealing to black voters in South Carolina. 

“What’s happening is you have Steyer spending millions of dollars out campaigning there, so I think a lot’s happening in terms of the amount of money being spent by billionaires to try to cut into the African American vote,” Biden said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” 

Meanwhile Steyer, who had a sixth-place finish in Nevada, said Sunday he does “a lot better” in diverse states. 

“I think I have done best with black people. I have done best with Latinos. I think that when we get to the diverse Democratic electorate, when we get to the diversity that is America and the Democratic Party, I do a lot better,” Steyer said on “Fox News Sunday.” 

“South Carolina happens to be a place that has a pretty high concentration of African Americans and those happen to be people that I talk to a lot and have a long history of working with and therefore that’s a population where I do really well,” Steyer added.

Steyer has prioritized South Carolina in his campaign, and said he needs to finish in the top three in the state after lagging behind in the earlier states. 

Results out of the Saturday’s Nevada caucuses, as well as from Iowa and New Hampshire, could impact how voters go to the polls, but the results in the south  “may not line up with” the results from the earlier, whiter states, House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said Sunday

“I do believe that Nevada will have somewhat of an impact on South Carolina, all the prior contests do have an impact. I do believe, however, though that South Carolinians know why they’re in this pre-primary window,” Clyburn said on ABC’s “This Week.”

“We got in the window because of the demographics of this state, and the demographics of the Democratic electorate, and we think we reflect that.”

Clyburn, known as a South Carolina kingmaker, said he will endorse a candidate after Tuesday night’s debate in the state.

While he hasn’t endorsed yet, he also didn’t seem to be writing anyone off, telling NBC’s Chuck Todd Sunday that if the election were tomorrow, “I do believe Joe Biden would have more the [African American] vote,” than the candidate received in Nevada. 

“How much more? I don’t know yet. I think the debate on Tuesday night will have an impact,” he said. 

He also said that Biden “suffered from” not doing “enough in the early debates to sway voters, but said with less candidates on stage as the field narrows the dynamic will change. 

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who trailed in fourth place in Nevada, “did herself a lot of good” after the Nevada debate, Clyburn said. 

“She demonstrated to the viewing public that she has tenacity and she was not unwilling to engage,” he said, referring to Warren’s attack on Michael Bloomberg in the debate.

Warren’s campaign had an influx in donations after her debate performance that could give her an edge going into South Carolina and Super Tuesday. 

Clyburn similarly did not write off Sanders, rejecting a claim from his fellow South Carolina Democrat Rep. Joe Cunningham that Sanders identification as a democratic socialist could make South Carolina voters reluctant to vote for him. 

“I concur with his conclusions, I don’t know that all should apply to Bernie Sanders,” Clyburn said on “Meet the Press,” in response to Cunningham’s comments earlier this month that South Carolina voters “don’t want socialism.” 

“I have worked very closely with Bernie Sanders on many issues, community health centers, we’ve been working on that together for 15 years. I do believe that community health centers as well as other initiatives in rural America, I think that Bernie Sanders brings a lot to the table for people to consider,” Clyburn added. 

Sanders is closing in on Biden’s lead in South Carolina, according to a new CBS News-YouGov poll released just days ahead of the primary. 

Biden’s support fell by 17 points since a November poll, down to 28 percent, based on the CBC poll released Sunday. He now holds just a slim 5 point lead over Sanders, who shot up 8 points to 23 percent support. 

Steyer trails in a close third place, at 18 percent support, according to the poll. Steyer’s support increased 16 points since the November poll. 

Warren’s support is at 12 percent, down 5 points since November, and is closely trailed by former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg at 10 percent support, based on the poll. 

The CBS-YouGov survey was conducted among a sample of 2,000 registered South Carolina voters between Feb. 20 and Feb. 22. It has a margin of error of 5.5 percentage points.

Tags Bernie Sanders Chuck Todd Elizabeth Warren Joe Biden Joe Cunningham Michael Bloomberg Pete Buttigieg Sunday shows Tom Steyer
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