Biden’s visit to South Carolina will be his fourth as president, underscoring just how critically he regards the state. South Carolina will hold the year’s first sanctioned Democratic primary, and the president’s team is under pressure to demonstrate strength among the minority-heavy Democratic electorate there.
The campaign has responded by visiting repeatedly. Biden’s trip Monday will come just two days after Vice President Kamala Harris will be in South Carolina to give her own set of remarks about freedom to the Seventh Episcopal District AME Church Women’s Missionary Society.
Campaign aides say the two visits are meant to send a clear signal that they aren’t taking Black voters for granted. They’re also trying to put a face to the benefits they believe the administration has provided.
“We’re not going to wait and parachute into these communities at the last minute and ask them for their vote. We’re going to earn their vote,” Fulks said. “We know that we have to communicate to these constituencies about what this administration has done. We have to communicate with these constituencies about the dangers that the other side poses. And we’re going to do both. But voters of color are the ones who have the most at stake in this election. And we need to make sure that every single one of them understands the choice in front of them.”
But the trips also come at a time when Democrats have been concerned about Black voters either souring on the president or becoming apathetic about voting as they head closer to the election. In 2020, South Carolina and Black voters breathed life into Biden’s campaign, launching him to the nomination after poor showings in Iowa and New Hampshire. Four years later, there’s an expectation that his share of the Black vote will again be impressive.
“There are a lot of people who feel like they know he’s done something, they just can’t feel it yet. And they’re on the edge of their seat about when that’s going to come,” Antjuan Seawright, a South Carolina-based Democratic strategist, told POLITICO. “It’s like when the preacher says the blessing is on the way. You know it’s coming because you’ve always believed in it, but you haven’t felt the blessing yet.”
“Going to South Carolina is a pure demonstration that they are running a real campaign, starting with this primary process,” Seawright added.
A senior Biden official told POLITICO the trips are also about the president trying to “cement” South Carolina as the first in the nation primary for more than just the 2024 election cycle.
“We are following through on the president’s commitment to have South Carolina go first. I think people glance over that as they think about all these other process questions. But the president was very serious when [he said] he wanted to make sure that the Democratic primary spoke to the full diversity of the Democratic Party and making sure that the base of the party, black voters, had a say in the early stage of the process,” said the official, who was granted anonymity to speak freely about internal thinking.
The travel is also a sign that the president’s reelection efforts are beginning in earnest. On the media call, senior aides said they are hiring quickly and expect thousands of staff members to be on board by early summer. They also said they were scaling up their paid media program and plan on putting the president and vice president on the road often.
The campaign’s top aides also announced Biden will be giving a speech at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, on Saturday, the third anniversary of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Michael Tyler, the campaign’s communication director, said the president’s speech will hit some familiar themes: the “stakes for our democracy” and the danger of a second Trump term.
The campaign says Biden’s speech locations have been in the works for weeks and are meant to be a one-two punch that exemplifies what the campaign feels is the core of its message.
“[Valley Forge] was the moment where [Washington] was able to bring the colonial forces together and mark the beginning of his ascent to power before he ultimately gave up power in the ultimate precedent as our nation’s first president,” the senior campaign official added. “Charleston similarly speaks to the ways in which communities have to come together to reject the hate fueled violence.”