In a sign that the tide of so-called identity politics may be turning on Joe Biden, his support among Black voters has been either stagnant or sagging while the polar opposite has been true for his rival Bernie Sanders, who on Wednesday topped a new national poll of Democratic presidential candidates to overtake what had been the former vice president’s comfortable perch since the day he announced his candidacy.
Those two facts added with a damning news story about a Black woman elected official in South Carolina who was a former Biden loyalist before jumping on Team Bernie could spell doom for the person who everybody has presumed would be the eventual Democratic nominee.
“He’s unafraid and he’s unapologetic,” Dalhi Myers, an influential city councilmember in Richland County, told the Associated Press about Sanders. “I like the fact that he is willing to fight for a better America — for the least, the fallen, the left behind.”
It was seemingly a triple whammy for a man who has never hesitated to let anyone within earshot know how he feels about his support from Black voters. Just last week during the first Democratic debate of the year, Biden boasted of “overwhelming support from the African American community. More than anybody else on this stage.”
On Wednesday, Biden doubled down on that sentiment when a reporter asked him why Sanders was eating into his support from Black folks, the New York Times reported.
“… all I know is, I am leading everybody, combined, with black voters,” Biden told Antonia Hylton of Vice News during a campaign event in Iowa. He continued to hammer home the point he wanted to make: “Let’s get this straight. Name me anybody who has remotely close to the support I have in the African-American community nationally.”
Biden was right, sort of, since he was still clinging to a narrowing lead among Black voters as well as nationally and in key primary locations, according to an aggregate of other polls. But Sanders also holds key — and commanding — leads over Biden in separate important primary races, like in New Hampshire, where the senator from Vermont is polling at about 15 percentage points higher than the next closest candidate (Biden).
Aside from that, a national poll conducted in part by the Washington Post and released Jan. 11 found that “Sanders is leading among black voters under age 35” — the coveted demographic of millennials that pollsters predict will be so important on Election Day.
With that said, though, that same poll found that Biden was enjoying the support of nearly half of all Black voters while Sanders came in at a distant second place with 20 percent.
Politico, which said it interviewed “dozens of black voters in South Carolina over the Martin Luther King holiday weekend,” published a news article on Thursday morning that attempted to explain Biden’s apparent stronghold over that demographic.
“Time and again, African American voters said it isn’t that they don’t like Sanders or [Elizabeth] Warren,” Politico wrote. “But they know what they’re getting with Biden, who has a relationship and familiarity with black voters, especially older black voters, that extend beyond his time as Barack Obama’s No. 2. And they’re wary that the two progressives can deliver the sweeping remake of the government they’re selling.”
So while it appeared that some Black voters may be having second thoughts about supporting Biden, support among Black voters was still his to lose — at least it was as of Thursday afternoon.