UPDATED: 10:14 a.m. ET, March 9 —
Two of the most prominent former White House hopefuls who had been staying out of presidential politics since they dropped out finally broke their silence on which candidates they want to become the Democratic nominee. Cory Booker and Kamala Harris each announced their support for Joe Biden, with the senator from California weighing in on Sunday and the senator from New Jersey chiming in on Monday morning.
Booker and Harris joined their fellow former presidential candidates Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar in endorsing Biden, with all four of them having their fair share of Black supporters (however low or high they may be) who are now likely to vote for the former vice president.
But as endorsements continue to pour in for Biden, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren (sorry, Tulsi), it was unclear what type of impact support from Booker and Harris would have on Biden and whether Black voters will similarly follow their endorsements.
It’s a key question that will remain relevant beyond Super Tuesday’s diverse voting population where eight of the 14 states voting have what Politico called “majority or plurality African American superdistricts.” Following Super Tuesday, primaries will still be held in states like and Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi where Black voters are also expected to play crucial roles in determining who wins the most delegates there.
That’s where the endorsements of Booker and Harris could be very valuable. In addition, while Harris’ home state of California already voted on Super Tuesday — Sanders was leading Biden there in the most recent poll — the New Jersey primary won’t be held in Booker’s state until June.
Booker has been noncommittal when talking about who he might endorse; that is, if he endorses anyone at all.
Days after he suspended his campaign in January, Booker said he’s “not sure” if he will make a formal endorsement of a candidate.
“So I’m going to think hard about who to endorse,” Booker told Politico at the time. “And whoever the next president of the United States is, they’ve got to be able to heal this nation.”
Harris, on the other hand, has been a bit more forthcoming with her impending endorsement.
The New York Times reported in late January that she was considering endorsing Joe Biden and her spokesperson said at the time that “No decisions have been made about whether she will endorse, which candidate, nor when an endorsement decision will be made.”
With that said, that still doesn’t answer the questions of whether their endorsements guarantee Black voters will come along with them. Prior to Booker and Harris dropping out, they were polling poorly with Black voters. The senators were even receiving minimal polling support from Black voters in decidedly Black states like South Carolina.
But as the saying goes, you never miss your water until your well runs dry, and their departure from the race along with Julián Castro dropping out meant that there was now no candidate remaining to take up the causes of Black lives in America.
That truth prompted an outpouring of support from Black people across social media — especially for Harris — in an indication that voters may have taken their candidacies for granted as the all-white field of candidates continued to gloss over the topic of race during debates. It may also be an indication that Harris’ endorsement, in particular, could also be a package deal with Black voters rallying behind the candidate who she decides to support.
On the flip side, Booker has been criticized for his candidacy never really connecting with Black voters. That may appear to make his endorsement less consequential than Harris’, but perception is everything in politics. Having the endorsement of a sitting senator who was also a former presidential candidate is still a coup for anyone. In this case, though, it just may not manifest itself in bringing Black voters to the polls on Election Day.
Biden has been clinging to his lead with Black voters with which Sanders has been making great strides lately, underscoring the importance of the so-called Black vote from an electorate that is expected to play an outsized role in November. That is what makes the endorsements of Cory Booker and Kamala Harris so important.