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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Teixeira: Just-Launched, Biden Has Edge With Black Voters

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from his blog:


Morning Consult just released their weekly tracking poll of likely Democratic primary voters and the results for Joe Biden are very good. The rollout of his formal candidacy has widened his first choice lead over Bernie Sanders from 6 to 14 points (now 36 to 22 percent).

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Interestingly, despite all the brouhaha about the Anita Hill hearings and Biden’s overly-familiar physical style, he is doing quite well among women (38 percent support) and, especially, black women (47 percent).

How can this be? I would refer you to the very interesting article by Trip Gabriel of the Times on Biden’s appeal in Pennsylvania. Gabriel notes that Biden “has the potential to attract suburban moderates defecting from the Republican Party under President Trump, to invigorate black voters who were underwhelmed by Hillary Clinton and to reverse at least some losses among working-class white voters.”

The material on black voters in this article is the most interesting. Most white liberals fail to understand that Ta-Nehisi Coates and like commentators do not represent the median black voter, who comes from a more pragmatic and, in important ways, more conservative place. Indeed, recent public opinion data show clearly that white liberals themselves are now to the left of blacks on many issues concerning race and racism.

Gabriel interviewed black voters in Philadelphia. He found that:

“patrons [of a black-oriented coffee and book shop] universally said Mr. Biden was at or near the top of their list, in no small part because of his eight-year partnership with President Barack Obama….

Kerry Chester, 53, a network engineer working at his laptop, said he voted for Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont in the 2016 Pennsylvania primary. But for 2020 he thinks it is so important to defeat Mr. Trump that Mr. Biden is preferable, even compared to the two top African-American candidates, Senators Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kamala Harris of California….

Neither Mr. Chester nor other black voters interviewed said Mr. Biden’s record of championing anti-crime bills — as a Delaware senator in the 1980s and ’90s — that led to mass incarceration were impediments to their support.

“That was 20 years ago,” Mr. Chester said. “I can’t hold everything against him.” He added that compared with other candidates, “I trust him a lot more.”

Nasya Jenkins, 21, who works at a Boys and Girls Club and is an aspiring influencer on Instagram, said she did not penalize Mr. Biden for his treatment of Anita Hill in her 1991 Senate Judiciary Committee testimony. Mr. Biden called Ms. Hill recently to address some of her concerns, a conversation she said left her dissatisfied.

“I’m not really so caught up on what happened in the past,” Ms. Jenkins said. “We’re here now, with all the problems we have. What do you plan on doing to change that — period?”

Sure, this is anecdotal stuff but it seems consistent with preference patterns we’re now seeing in the data. It may be the case that Biden could not only do a better job reaching white working class voters than Clinton but also do a better job mobilizing black voters, including women. That’s pretty important.

Look, I don’t want to go overboard on Biden. He has lots of problems, including possible lack of appeal to young voters. And if I was backing someone strictly on the basis of policy and who would do the best job as President, I’d pick Warren. But the data as they come in do suggest that Biden has a case as the candidate best-suited to Job #1: taking out Trump.

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