Biden Bounces Back - How Joe Biden's Presidential Campaign gained new life ahead of Super Tuesday

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Joe Biden had bet on the support of African Americans to drive forward his campaign. South Carolina gave us a look at what may still come…

In South Carolina, Joe Biden talked the talk and walked the walk. For much of the 2020 Democratic Party campaign, Biden had maintained, unwaveringly, that the strength of his support from the African American community would be a factor in his campaign, whatever the outcome.

This is despite what could only be described as a less than ideal start to the electoral contest.

After the confusion of the Iowa Caucus and eventual confirmation of results which saw him place feebly, behind Warren, Sanders and most worryingly Buttigieg, Biden’s supporters had been quick to point toward the makeup of the state, with the minority vote accounting for 9% and the African-American or black vote further adrift at 2%. After Iowa, Biden faced an even worse result in New Hampshire. He placed fifth with no delegates, in a state where he was projected to win 26% of the vote, as per FiveThirtyEight. A return of only 6 delegates (now 7 owing to Buttigieg's withdrawal) from the opening 2 rounds was less than ideal.

For a candidate, who had been the early frontrunner and for whom much was expected it was apparent that Biden would not be entering the Nevada Caucus riding the same wave of optimism as some of his contemporaries. The result in Nevada, however, went some way to steadying the ship. He was once more behind Sanders but support placing him above the 15% first-round threshold and a 9 delegate takeaway positioned him well for what would prove his arrival at the 2020 electoral campaign. With the result in South Carolina, Biden had gained 39 delegates. The win itself was not a surprise but the comprehensive manner of it was needed if only to ensure that a campaign strategy, which had been known to all did indeed carry some merit. When asked in the South Carolina debate on Wednesday how he planned to convince Black voters that he could “change years of inequities,” he had promised to tackle issues of gentrification and offer solutions to the house price discrepancy that exists between black and white homeowners. Beyond this, he pledged to provide a $15,000 tax credit for first time home buyers to help them in their efforts in becoming homeowners. This may not have sounded overly ambitious, but it was Biden’s solutions that resonated most with South Carolinian natives. Indeed, African American voters, though too often portrayed as such, are not a monolithic group. Many of their concerns, like any other group, are related to ensuring self-betterment, both economic and social, even if the barriers to achieving this are more determinant for them than others.

So perhaps it was just him? His time as the right hand to the first black president can never truly be ignored. Nor too though can his record of confronting issues affecting the black community. As he outrightly stated himself: “My entire life I’ve been involved in the black community. I was a public defender, I worked in the projects, I came along and [the] first thing I did—is the chairman of the judiciary committee extended the Voting Rights Act, eventually for 25 years, and I’ve been deeply involved. My first effort I had as a councilman was doing away with redlining in the county.” Either way, where Biden is concerned his message has proved effective. He received just over two-thirds of the black vote in South Carolina at 61% and 48% of the total vote in the state, which was more than double that of his closest rival Bernie Sanders.

As the campaign trail goes on and more candidates make their way out of the race, the dynamics will continue to change. Margins will become finer as options narrow for the population at large, but Biden will be keen to maintain his place not only as that of the candidate most in touch with the concerns of African American voters but most capable of finding solutions to the issues they face. It does beg the question as to whether he would have maintained this stranglehold had Senator Harris not dropped out late last year. Although this seems very much doubtful, circumstance has afforded him the luxury of not having this concern.

From Biden’s perspective, it does not help that the current frontrunner, Bernie Sanders, is the second most popular among African American voters after success in New Hampshire and decisively so in Nevada. Yet he will be re-energized by the decision of Pete Buttigieg to drop out from contention in the early hours of yesterday morning. There is hope still that over the long run and with the withdrawals of Buttigieg and the less successful Tom Steyer earlier this week, Biden may become to the moderate branch of the party what Bernie Sanders is to the progressive. However, he still faces competition from Amy Klobuchar, who despite her vigour will likely wilt next, and more pressingly, the media might of Michael Bloomberg.

‘Uncle Joe’ as he is known affectionately in more familiar circles has for the large part of his career been a stable figure in a continuously evolving period in US politics. He has not been without controversy or criticism, but his decades of experience in the Senate, and tenure as Obama's right-hand man have allowed him to better re-position himself for what may be his last realistic opportunity to win the Democratic nomination for the top seat, after false starts in 1988 and 2008. The outlook will continue to change as the Caucasus and primaries continue in full force, but as Biden sets his sights on Super Tuesday he will more than ever be aware of the fact that his continued presence owes much to the African-American voters who continue to deliver on their end of the bargain. He will need to rely on them once again if there is to be light at the end of the tunnel past tomorrow.

Mayowa Ayodele

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