Political scientist: Enthusiasm among African American voters could benefit Biden in South Carolina and Virginia primaries

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Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event, Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019, in Scranton, Pa. (Aimee Dilger/The Times Leader via AP)

BLACKSBURG, Va. (WFXR) — Enthusiasm among African American voters could benefit former Vice President Joe Biden in South Carolina’s Saturday primary and Virginia’s Super Tuesday primary, according to a Virginia Tech political scientist.

Brandy Faulkner, collegiate assistant professor of political science and the Gloria D. Smith Professor of Africana Studies at Virginia Tech’s College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, says Biden’s name recognition among the African American voters could help him score a much-needed victory in coming days.

“A lot of people trust him based on what they know about him and his policies in the past,” she said. “I think that what we’re seeing is a last effort, I think, to really push for Biden as we push as we approach Super Tuesday and as we approach South Carolina this [weekend].”

Biden scored two big endorsements in the last 24 hours, with the endorsement of South Carolina Democratic Congressman Jim Clyburn and Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine. Clyburn is the highest-ranking African American member of Congress. Kaine was the 2016 Democratic nominee for vice president.

The endorsement of Clyburn, specifically, could be beneficial as Biden looks to score his first ever victory in any state after three runs for the White House. South Carolina is the first state to have an African American population more reflective of the American electorate, while the first two presidential contests in Iowa and New Hampshire were largely made up of white voters.

Biden is also helped among African American voters from his eight years serving as vice president under President Barack Obama, the nation’s first African American president.

“In fact, this week at one of Biden’s events, he mentioned his role in helping to push Obamacare through. He continues to attach himself to President Obama and I think it benefits him quite a bit in the African American community, especially with those that are 40 and older.”

For those under 40, Faulkner said there is a lot of enthusiasm for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is within striking distance of Biden in a new poll released Friday morning.

Biden has the support of 22% of likely voters who participated in the poll, while Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has 17% and former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg stands at 13%. Biden’s lead over Sanders is within the margin of error of +/- 4.3%.

Sanders is talking about a lot of issues that are relevant to younger African Americans, Faulkner noted, specifically pointing to the cost of college tuition, the cost of healthcare, and a discussion of reparations for African Americans.

“I think it is drawing a lot of people into the conversation who perhaps had not been involved before, so I’m excited to see where it goes.”

While there is enthusiasm for Biden and Sanders in the African American community, Faulkner cautioned that the lack of diversity in the Democratic field could dampen minority voter turnout.

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