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Black Voters Not Sold On Biden

But the largest share of black voters back him anyway.

So far, Joe Biden holds the lead among black Democratic voters, but there are signs that members of the demographic, which makes up a large share of Democratic primary voters, are not thrilled with the candidacy of Barack Obama’s vice president. However, the several minority candidates in the Democratic field have nonetheless failed to catch fire with voters.

In a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, 39 percent of black Democrats favored Biden. Elizabeth Warren, another white candidate, ran a distant second in the poll at 22 percent. The other candidates, including Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg as well as the minority candidates, all polled at less than 10 percent.

Still, there are concerns about Biden, especially regarding his propensity for gaffes. For example, in last week’s debate, Biden claimed, “I come out of the black community in terms of my support” and said that he had the support of “the only black African American woman who had ever been elected to the United States Senate,” referring to Carol Mosely Braun.

That was news to Kamala Harris, who laughed back, “Nope. That’s not true. The other one is here.”

Biden quickly corrected himself, saying, “I said the first.”

Another source of uncertainty surrounding Biden is his age. The 76-year-old candidate is viewed as healthy by almost as many voters (74 percent) as the 70-year-old Warren (80 percent) and more than Bernie Sanders (48 percent), age 78 and the victim of a recent heart attack. That doesn’t mean that voters are not concerned, however.

“Well, I was sort of leaning toward Joe Biden,” said Elsie Just-Buddy, member of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in downtown Atlanta when asked by ABC News about her candidate preference. When asked about her hesitation, the member of the church once pastored by Martin Luther King, Jr. cited Biden’s age.

ABC reported that, after interviewing dozens of congregants at Ebenezer, black voters trusted and liked Biden due to familiarity with him from his years in the Obama Administration but weren’t very excited about his candidacy. They were open to a more exciting candidate, but, so far, that candidate has not emerged.

Another member of Ebenezer, Ernest Fry, said, “I think that he’d be a good candidate as well as the rest of them. But, you know, I don’t think anyone got it locked unless you got a good program for the people.”

Nevertheless, Elizabeth Warren, once renowned for her plans and currently smarting from a health plan so unrealistic that it was even mocked by Democrats, fares much worse than Biden. The very white woman from Massachusetts pleaded her case to minority voters in the Atlanta debate, saying, “As a white woman, I will never fully understand the discrimination, pain, and harm that black Americans have experienced just because of the color of their skin. When I am president of the United States, the lessons of black history will not be lost.”

Black Democratic candidates Corey Booker and Kamala Harris were critical of the fact that white Democrats top the polls. Both glossed over their own dearth of support from black voters when they made their complaints, however.  

Booker warned that black voters are “p-ss-d off because the only time our issues seem to be really paid attention to by politicians is when people are looking for their vote. And they’re worried because, in the Democratic Party, we don’t want to see people miss this opportunity and lose because we are nominating someone that … isn’t trusted, doesn’t have authentic connection.”

In a speech to the NAACP in Detroit last May, Harris complained that the notion of electability to Midwest voters led to prejudice against minority candidates, saying, “Too often, the definition of the Midwest leaves people out.” However, during Harris’ brief flirtation with frontrunner status, it was white voters and not blacks who rallied behind her.

Black support for Biden also comes as a surprise to many on the right who predicted that the Democratic Party would rally behind an intersectional candidate rather than another old white man. The fact that the top two choices of black voters are a white man and a white woman, even though there are prominent black candidates in the running, has exploded stereotypes on both sides.

For all the uneasiness and lack of excitement surrounding his campaign, Steady Joe Biden remains the candidate to beat. While others, including Kamala Harris, have flashed in the pan and quickly burned out, Biden’s position atop the polls with the support of a quarter to a third of Democratic voters has been very consistent since he entered the race.

Elizabeth Warren, who is currently plummeting in the polls, is the only other candidate with any significant support in the black community, and other potential frontrunners such as Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg have shown almost no minority appeal. Due to the lack of exciting alternatives, it seems almost certain that, barring a major gaffe or health problem, Joe Biden will emerge as the Democratic candidate at the end of the day. If so, he will have black voters to thank.

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