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From the New York Times, I'm Michael Boboro. This is the daily when the democratic presidential nomination process begins tomorrow in South Carolina, the question is not who will win, but whether President Biden can fix his growing problem with black voters. My colleague Maya King explains. It's Friday, February 2.


So, Maya, after weeks of covering the republican presidential nomination process in Iowa and then New Hampshire, we're now officially ready to turn to the democratic nomination process. And that begins in South Carolina, not where it used to begin, which was in Iowa, along with the Republicans starting there. And just to begin, remind us why South Carolina is going first this year.


So this process really started four years ago when black voters in South Carolina turned out in large numbers to vote for then candidate Biden, effectively saving his campaign. He was really trailing in Iowa and in New Hampshire. And it was when he got to South Carolina that all of these black voters seeing him as really the most pragmatic option, turned out in these large numbers to vote for him. And he took that momentum from South Carolina to Super Tuesday, where he won pretty overwhelmingly. And then, of course, was then the democratic party's nominee for president.


Right. And Biden's very explicit about this and proud of it. He will frequently say black voters in South Carolina saved, revived my primary campaign, and they are the reason I'm president.


He is not quiet about the role that South Carolina has played in his life and certainly in his political livelihood. President Biden really points to South Carolina and black voters here as a really key part of his coalition. And it's the reason why he openly says he asked the Democratic Party to put South Carolina first in the order of early primary states, putting black voters, black Americans in the driver's seat, being the first Democrats in the country to decide who they want to be president. And there's not a lot of suspense around what's going to happen tomorrow. The primary here in South Carolina is largely uncompetitive. It's very clear that Biden will be victorious. However, we're not really watching for the election results. We're more looking at what's happening outside of them and some of the dynamics that have caused Democrats to really hone in on South Carolina. And it's because they've identified in polling, in focus groups and conversations a real problem with one of the key coalitions that they will need in November, and that's black voters. And that's why South Carolina for the last several weeks has been something of a laboratory or a proving ground of sorts for democrats as they try to form a message that would excite and galvanize black voters not just here, but across the country.


Democrats'hope. Here is that what they learn from black voters in South Carolina is applicable to black voters in other parts of the country, cities like Detroit, Milwaukee, even Atlanta, with large black communities in key swing states.


Well, Maya, remind us of just how meaningful a problem Biden has with black voters. According to all the data that you have been looking at, it's a pretty big problem.


In 2020, President Biden won the election with about 87% of the black vote. But polling that the Times has done found that at this stage, he only has about 71% of support from black voters. That's a pretty steep decline.


Sure is.


And what's even more concerning for democrats is that former President Trump has actually increased his support among black voters from 8% that he won in 2020 to about 22% that our poll found late last year. It's a really striking drift away from Biden because a republican presidential candidate has not topped more than 12% from black voters in almost 50 years.




And so if former President Trump were to really have more than 20% support from black voters, that would be a historic shift in black voting behavior.


I'm curious, Maya, in your reporting, what are you finding explains such a major decline in support from what you have described as a core and historically faithful group of Biden supporters, these black voters, and what reasons are being offered to explain it?


I've spoken to black voters across the country. Hi, this is Maya King. I'm a reporter with the New York. Hi. Is historian.




Hi, Talita.


Hello. Yes, hello.


Hi, Aviana. It's Maya King with the New York Times. Is now a good time to chat? One theme that's really emerged in these conversations, Michael, has been this general feeling of malaise.


I'm just not one. Like, they haven't won me over yet. Everybody talks and gets everybody to vote for them. And then when they get into office, they don't do a lot of the things that they say they're going to do. People want to.


And also this idea that President Biden campaigned and made so many promises to black voters, but did not deliver on those promises.


Like what?


Student loan debt is one issue that comes up quite a bit because I'm.


Looking at the fact that now I got a bill that I got to pay, that I barely can make ends meet to pay. So it's like, what did you really do?


A lot of black folks that I talk to are up to their necks in student loan debt, and they remember the promise that democrats made to try to alleviate some of that, like, you.


Guys talk so much about getting it done and then the forgiveness is not, but for so long, you know what I mean? They'll let you not have to pay for a little bit, but then you have to wind up paying it anyway.


And they also remember how that hasn't really worked out. And it feels like a promise that really fell through, one that they were really looking forward to that democrats did not make good on.


Right. Biden attempted to make good on it through executive action. He has been undermined largely by Republicans seeking to block him in the courts, and he hasn't had a lot of success with the courts.


Right. And how old are you?


I'm 18.


Okay, so you are old. And especially when I talk to younger voters, what they point out to me is his age.


I know a lot of people talk about how old he is and how he's like, he's too old to get around or soon they'll say that he'll pass away.


They see him as this representative of a bygone era of politics that he doesn't understand or really relate to a lot of the issues that are more relevant to their lives and that they just don't see him as a figure who is really compelling to them, who they would want to vote for and feel enthusiastic about.




What do you want to see Biden do? And what should he tell people your age to get people to listen and turn back out to vote?


I feel like an effective message would just be like knowing that he's listening. Maybe he doesn't know.


Right. This is kind of the age and charisma question that has trailed Biden now for years.


Absolutely. Another thing that I hear a lot is, of course, the economy, that things are more expensive, that even though people are working, it's still hard for them to afford housing, to afford groceries, and to afford being able to support their families.


At the same time, we're looking at the economy and what's best for the people. Gas prices were lower. More jobs were available for people.


And they point to this steep uptick in prices and this general harder living as really having been palpable under Biden's presidency.


This country is a business. And a man with business ethics, such as Trump led the company. Mean.


And this is where Trump's appeal starts to really show itself.


I look at it as a business aspect and a better choice for this country, by the way, that it is, would be Donald Trump.


I spoke to a voter who said that he felt the economy was better under former President Trump, that he looked at the former president's position as a businessman, in his words, and said that he has a better grasp of what's happening in the economy.




I'm just waiting to see who's going to have the best views, who's going to put out the best policies for the american people. And whatever side that is, that's what side I will lean to.


But today you're saying that's Trump. Correct.


And what else are you hearing from these black voters?


Well, something that's come up a little more recently in conversations with particularly black organizers and community leaders and faith leaders is a real disaffection for Biden in terms of their perception of his support for the war between Israel and Hamas.


Black faith leaders are extremely disappointed in the Biden administration on this issue.


I spoke with a number of black pastors across the country.


There are many who are, when I.


Have conversations with them, having real issues.


With the White House who said that.


The folks in their pews, their congregants, are really upset and disappointed in the Biden administration.


Babies and incubators and mothers and fathers, children, people had nothing to do with Hamas being killed.


As they see on the news, on social media, and in their feeds, these images of destruction in Gaza and the.


Fact that 25,000 have been killed without the kind of outcry in America we know wouldn't happen if these were white people. We know that. And so there is that commonality that.


Black Americans feel, and they have started to understand or feel some sort of kinship between Palestinians and their plight and that of black Americans, that both of these groups in some way are both oppressed people or have a history of oppression in their respective countries.


We're giving Israel a lot of taxpayer money, to my knowledge, with no conditions. And Netanyahu is telling us, just give us the money and leave us alone. That's untenable. That's untenable.


They feel like the Biden administration has played such a role in helping finance this, and it's really impacted their support now among a very key group of black voters, black faith voters for the Biden administration.


When you say black faith voters, just.


Explain that these are largely older black folks, church going folks, who spend a lot of time in black faith spaces. And this is really a group of people that lies at the core of Biden's black support. These are the folks who vote very regularly in almost every election. And also, I should point out that black churches are a really important part of Democrats get out the vote efforts.




That's been a place where they've always been able to talk directly to black voters. So it's very striking now to hear that the same folks who are pretty used to hearing from Democrats talking about politics may have even had Biden come visit their church are saying that they are paying attention to his foreign policy and saying that they really, really don't agree with it.


So assuming the Biden campaign has found similar reasons as you have for the growing black disillusionment with him in this reelection campaign, it feels like the challenge for them is just the breadth of explanations voters are giving for why they're souring on him. It's not just one thing. It's a dozen things. It's economic explanations. It's a personal disconnection. It's things like his support for Israel in the war against Gaza. And that would seem to all add up to a very challenging problem to fix.


Yes, and it's a problem that can't be fixed with a single message. It's really one that they're going to have to tackle across multiple fronts. And so I think that's why you see so much money and time and effort being poured into a state like South Carolina. This is the campaign's first chance to really tackle this issue and figure out what exactly they'll need to do to fix this problem that they have with black voter enthusiasm and replicate that in places across the country.


We'll be right back.


So, Maya, as the Biden campaign tries to solve its black voter problem in South Carolina, what has its efforts there actually looked like on the ground? How is it trying to shore up and win back some of these black voters?


Well, Democrats have spared no expense in their efforts. Here in South Carolina, we've seen about a six figure investment in staffing, and that's senior advisors to the campaign and also an army of field staffers who have been in the more rural and heavily black areas of the state.




Hello, South Carolina. It's good to be home with so many friends.


President Biden himself has been to South Carolina twice in the last month. Good afternoon.


Good afternoon, South Carolina.


Vice President Harris has been here three times, and we've also seen several pretty high profile democrats come and visit the state and encourage folks to turn out, people like House Majority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, California Governor Gavin Newsom, and all of them are going to these really far flung parts of the state, meeting with voters, talking with them.


And it is you who convinced your neighbors and family members and friends and.


Coworkers reminding them of the role that they played in the 2020 election.


In so doing, South Carolina set the path for Joe Biden to become president of the United States and me to be the first black woman vice president of the United States. It is you who did that.


And what is the overarching message that Biden, Harris and all these representatives from the campaign are really experimenting with as they speak to these groups of black voters?


I heard a slogan multiple times when I was at democrats first in the nation dinner last Saturday. It was this message of promises made, promises kept, and they're driving home this message, Democrats, that they actually have made good on many of the campaign promises that they made in 2020. It's just that they've done a pretty poor job of articulating them in the past.


So the campaign is speaking pretty directly to what you have found, Maya. And you're reporting that there's a perceived gap between what Biden said he would do for black America and what he has actually been able to do. I'm really curious, what are the examples that the campaign points to where they can say, here's a promise we made that we actually kept?


Well, where you see an argument from a black voter in polling or even in our own reporting about falling short of the Biden administration, you can expect to see here in South Carolina, Biden himself countering that message and saying, this is where we've actually helped you. And this is where this administration has delivered on the promises it's made.


I promised LBE's accumulated student debt for millions of folks carrying during the crisis of the pandemic. Supreme Court blocked me but didn't stop.


Me on the point of student loan forgiveness. This idea that Biden dropped the ball on relieving student loans.


Another 25,000 people a month, beginning next month, are going to start to get their student loans forgiven because they're getting notified with a letter from me. You're about to get that relief.


They've come out on these large stages and actually talked about instances where people have had their student loans relieved through different policies that the Biden campaign has.


Passed record unemployment, including the lowest levels of black unemployment ever recorded in american history.


They've also parroted out the fact that black unemployment is the lowest it's ever been.


I promise you, we make record investments as HBCUs, including South Carolina's eight HBCUs. HBCUs students are just as talented as any student in America, but their colleges and universities don't have the funding and endowments for the cutting edge laboratories and research centers.


They've gone to a number of historically black colleges and universities here in South Carolina and actually laid out how much money each university has received from the Biden administration.


Well, I've invested so far, $7 billion in HBCUs and county help support our brilliant HBCU students. And again, a promise made and a.


Promise kept, making the point that this president has invested more in historically black colleges than actually any other president in history.




Other policies that I've heard quite a bit, a little bit more in the weeds. But I think it does matter to these rural voters.


40,000 projects across american county, rebuilding our roads and our bridges, affordable high speed Internet everywhere in America, ripping out every poisonous lead pipe in America so every child can turn on a faucet, drink clean water without worrying about brain damage.


Things like rural broadband and Internet access in far flung parts of the state, infrastructure, clean water and pipes in some of these places that historically have not had access to those things.


And all the progress we've made comes down to a simple proposition. Promises made and promises kept.


Right. It's an interesting approach. I mean, on their own, some of these things that the campaign is talking about seem relatively small, but the idea is to have those accumulate into a message that your life is better under President Biden, so stick with him. But what that seems to leave out are the less tangible objections that black voters might have to President Biden that you found in your reporting, his age and the war in Gaza, issues that are more complicated and harder for the campaign to counteract than something like Internet access or clean water.


Right. And these are things that the campaign is going to have to work on over the next ten months. But I think what they're really driving home here in South Carolina is a counter to this message that they have not tangibly changed the lives of people and actually affected change in these different communities. And I think that their hope is that once more people understand the way that these policies have positively impacted their lives, it could counter some of the ill feeling that voters might have towards Biden.


So how is the campaign attempting to measure the success of what they're up to in South Carolina? Like you said, they know they're going to win. So when the data rolls in at the end of Saturday and they look at it, how are they going to know what is effective in galvanizing black voters? And just as importantly, how are they going to understand what's not effective in galvanizing?


Know, Democrats have been pretty tight lipped here in South Carolina in terms of identifying what success would look like for them. But in conversations with people who will really be watching turnout numbers tomorrow, I think if we see large turnout, especially in these heavily black areas of the state, Biden's allies here in South Carolina can count that as a win.


So that's the measure, turnout. How many people actually show up at the polls? Which is a little bit complicated because as we've said, this is not a competitive primary. It's on a weekend. And the way you get people out to the polls is usually by giving them a competition in which they have very strong feelings.


That's right. And that really is Democrats challenge here, even as they've laid out this message and aimed to get more voters excited about supporting President Biden's reelection. It's really difficult to actually get people to vote for that in a largely uncontested race. And of course, former President Trump, who is likely to be the republican nominee, will not be on this ballot in the primary. But if we do find pretty large turnout after Saturday, I think it points to the success of this entire operation that even though this is not a competitive primary, Democrats still turned out to show their support for this president's reelection.


It strikes me that if this strategy doesn't end up working, if it doesn't work in South Carolina and if it doesn't end up working in any of the states where Democrats need to turn out black voters, that this might not just be a problem for President Biden. And of course it would be a problem for Biden. It might cost him the election. But if, as Democrats fear, black voters are open to Trump and are willing to vote for a Republican in ways they haven't in decades, then this becomes a much larger problem, perhaps even crisis, for the entire democratic party and its brand.


That's right. It would mean a fundamental reordering of the democratic coalition, and that would create much longer term issues for any Democrat running for president or even down ballot.


Right. And so for all those reasons, what happens in South Carolina matters because it's the start of something very important that keeps black voters with the democratic party, or it's the beginning of a real rupture, potentially, of that relationship.


It's a significant moment. And so in the same way that black voters turning out en masse for President Biden in 2020 was what drove his momentum to ultimately win the election. Right now, four years later, the possibility of black voters shifting away from democrats after South Carolina could be the thing that threatens his reelection here in 2024.


Thank you very much.


We appreciate it.


Thanks for having me.


We'll be right back. Here's what else you need to know today. On Thursday, the European Union authorized the creation of a $54 billion fund to support Ukraine in its war against Russia, a crucial lifeline because Congress has refused to adopt new american funding for the country. The EU fund had previously been blocked by the leader of Hungary, Viktor Orbin, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. But in the latest round of negotiations, Orbin dropped his opposition and President Biden has ordered broad financial and travel sanctions against at least four israeli settlers accused of violent attacks on Palestinians in the West bank. His toughest actions against Israel to date since it declared war on Hamas. The Times reports that the sanctions are aimed in part at assuaging arab american voters in the US who have expressed fury over Biden's forceful support of Israel in the war. Today's episode was produced by Sidney Harper, Summer Tamaud, Will Reed, and Rochelle Banja. It was edited by Rachel Quester and Brendan Klinkenberg, contains original music by Marion Lozano and Pat McCusker, and was engineered by Alyssa Moxley. Our theme music is by Jim Brunberg and Ben Landfirk of Wonderley.


The daily is made by Rachel Quester, Lindsay Garrison, Claire Tennisgetter, Paige Coward, Michael Simon Johnson, Brad Fisher, Chris Wood, Jessica Chung, Stella Tan, Alexandra Lee Young, Lisa Chow, Eric Krupke, Mark George, Luke Vanderbluke, MJ Davis, Lynn Dan Powell, Sidney Harper, Michael Benoit, Liz O'Balen, Asta Chotherbadi, Rochelle Banja, Diana Wynn, Marion Lozano, Corey Shreppel, Rob Zipko, Alicia Ba E Tube, Mooj Zadi, Patricia Willins, Rowani Misto, Jody Becker, Ricky Novetsky, John Ketchum, Nina Feldman, Will Reed, Carlos Prieto, Ben Calhoun, Susan Lee, Lexi Diao, Mary Wilson, Alex Stern, Dan Farrell, Sophia Landman, Shannon Lin, Diane Wong, Devin Taylor, Alyssa Moxley, Summer Tamaud, Olivia Nat, Daniel Ramirez and Brendan Klinkenberg. Special thanks to Lisa Tobin, Sam Dolnick, Paula Schumann, Larissa Anderson, Julia Simon, Sophia Milan, Mahima Choblani, Elizabeth Davis Moore, Jeff Free, Miranda Renan Borelli, Maddie Maciiello, Isabella Anderson, and Nina Lawson. That's it for the Daily. I'm Michael Boboro. See you on Monday.