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Biden and Harris campaign in Philadelphia with focus on Black voters

Credit: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

John Cole, Pennsylvania Capital-Star
May 29, 2024

PHILADELPHIA — For the first time this year in Pennsylvania, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris participated in a campaign event together, in the battleground state’s biggest city. The joint appearance at Girard College announcing the launch of Black Voters for Biden-Harris underscores the importance of Black voters to the Biden-Harris campaign, a crucial voting bloc that helped the ticket win Pennsylvania in 2020. 

“In 2024, with your voice and your power, we will win again,” Harris told the audience Wednesday. “We beat Donald Trump once and we’re going to do it again.”

Biden and Harris were joined at the event by Black leaders including Maryland Gov. Wes Moore, Congressional Black Caucus Chairperson U.S. Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV), Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. Austin Davis, and Philadelphia Mayor Cherelle Parker.

“Hello Philadelphia,” Biden said to chants of “four more years” from the audience. “It’s good to be almost home.”

Biden echoed Harris, crediting Black Americans for his victory in 2020 and said with their vote they will “make Donald Trump a loser again.”

Biden and Harris touted their administration’s efforts on a wide range of issues including passing an infrastructure law, passing a law addressing gun violence, lowering healthcare costs, canceling student loan debt, and appointing progressive judges to the courts.

Both of them slammed former President Donald Trump for attempting to repeal the Affordable Care Act during his time in office, appointing Supreme Court justices who voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, passing his tax reform law, and for questioning former President Barack Obama’s citizenship.

Following the speech at Girard College, Biden traveled a few blocks to South Restaurant, according to pool reports, to attend a small business event with the Black Chamber of Commerce.

Lt. Gov. Austin Davis introduced Biden at the restaurant saying “the stakes of this election are just too damn high.”

Having the support of Black voters has been key for Democratic presidential tickets for decades. Biden said Black voters had placed “enormous faith in me” throughout his political career. 

“I’ve tried to do my best to honor that trust,” he said Wednesday.

In 2020, Pennsylvania exit polling shows 92% of Black voters supported Biden’s candidacy, while 7% voted for former President Donald Trump, the presumptive 2024 GOP nominee. However, recent polling finds that Biden does not appear to be garnering that same level of support this cycle, potentially putting his reelection bid in danger in Pennsylvania and beyond. 

To that end, the campaign has renewed its focus on courting Black voters. Harris gave the keynote address to the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) convention in Philadelphia last week, as the group elected its first Black woman president. 

Earlier this month, Biden delivered the commencement address at Morehouse College in Georgia, a historically Black college. He pledged to continue supporting HBCUs, touting that during his administration, the federal funding for HBCUs has surpassed $16 billion.

And both the Biden and Trump campaigns have aired ads focused on Black voters in battleground states, including Pennsylvania. As early as last fall, the Biden-Harris campaign was running ads in swing states focused on Black voters, part of a $25 million campaign in key battleground states.

The Trump campaign has taken a slightly different approach, according to a campaign spokesperson.

“President Trump’s outreach to minority voters is straightforward: he shows up, listens, and makes it clear that we’ll be better off with him as President, just like we were four years ago,” Janiyah Thomas, the Trump campaign’s director of Black Media, told the Capital Star in an email. “Team Trump’s outreach to minority communities is a stark contrast to Joe Biden’s failing campaign whose only tactic is to gaslight minority voters with desperate ads and pandering speeches that fail to address Biden’s terrible policies.”

State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta (D-Philadelphia) is on the Biden-Harris National Advisory Board and has campaigned for the ticket across Pennsylvania, as well as in South Carolina and Wisconsin.

“The President’s consistent outreach is about treating people with respect, not telling them they have to vote, making a case for why they can vote,” Kenyatta told the Capital-Star. “I’m beyond confident that he and the Vice President are more than capable of doing that, and that we’re going to be successful in large part because this president has a record of success and Donald Trump only has a record of cutting taxes for the wealthiest Americans.”

Biden last appeared in Philadelphia at the end of a weeklong swing through three Pennsylvania cities in April, ahead of the state’s primary election. He received the endorsement of several members of the Kennedy family at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center in North Philadelphia. During that visit, he discussed sitting behind the resolute desk and having busts of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., saying he thinks of what they would do in difficult situations.

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Biden volunteered at Philadelphia food bank Philabundance alongside Mayor Cherelle Parker,  the third time he’s visited there on the holiday since winning the presidential election in 2020.  Also this year on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, several Pennsylvania elected officials including Gov. Josh Shapiro and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey were at Girard College for what is described as the nation’s largest Day of Service event honoring King’s legacy.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, who helped propel Biden to victory in the Palmetto State’s primary election in 2020, has campaigned for the Biden-Harris ticket in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh this year, in an effort to boost support among Black voters. Clyburn is widely credited with helping Biden clinch the Democratic nomination in 2020, as the influential Congressman was an early endorser of Biden’s campaign.

Wednesday is Biden’s eighth visit to Pennsylvania this cycle. This is Harris’s fifth visit to the state in 2024, four of them in the southeast.  

During Harris’s speech in Philadelphia last week, there were chants of “Free Palestine” from some members of audience. While there were no similar chants from the crowd during Wednesday’s appearance, a local elected official in attendance said the ongoing Israel-Hamas War in Gaza could affect Biden’s chances of securing a second term.

Philadelphia City Councilmember Nicolas O’Rourke, who delivered the Working Families Party’s response to Biden’s State of the Union address in March, said compared to Trump, Biden is the best candidate on issues like women’s reproductive rights and voting rights. But O’Rourke added he believes Biden’s response to the war could cost him.

“As a citizen of the United States, and as someone who does not want to see a second Trump term, it’s important, it is incumbent upon the president to heed the calls of the people,” O’Rourke told reporters Wednesday. “Obviously, continue to do the good things that are being done, but there must be a meaningful response on the constant loud cries to see a cessation of violence and peace.”

Trump has made three visits to Pennsylvania so far in 2024, appearing in Philadelphia once, to announce a new line of Trump-branded sneakers. Although Trump hasn’t visited the Keystone State since his April rally in the Lehigh Valley, he rallied supporters in Wildwood, New Jersey earlier this month before an audience with plenty of Pennsylvanians in attendance. 

The latest polling shows Trump with a slight edge over Biden, and with U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) holding a narrow lead over Republican challenger David McCormick.

Casey was in attendance for the rally on Wednesday. McCormick was scheduled to participate in a “fireside chat” in the Lehigh Valley hosted by Moms for Liberty, with former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

Multiple national ratings outlets, including the Cook Political Report, rate the presidential race as a “toss-up” in Pennsylvania. The 19 electoral votes on the line make it the largest swing state in this category for the 2024 cycle.

Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Kim Lyons for questions: info@penncapital-star.com. Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.

This article is republished from Pennsylvania Capital-Star under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.