Biden widens Black Caucus support after Harris, Booker exits

Joe Biden

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020, in Ames, Iowa. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

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FORT DODGE, Iowa (AP) — Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden continued to run up his advantage among black political leaders Tuesday, with four Congressional Black Caucus members announcing their support, including three who previously backed Sens. Kamala Harris or Cory Booker.

Georgia Rep. Sanford Bishop was making his first public declaration of support in the Democratic primary. New Jersey Rep. Donald Payne previously backed Booker. Florida Reps. Alcee Hastings and Frederica Wilson previously backed Harris. Payne, Hastings and Wilson are the first Black Caucus members to pick new candidates after Booker and Harris ended their campaigns.

The Biden campaign confirmed the endorsements Tuesday, bringing the 77-year-old candidate’s roster of Black Caucus supporters to 15. That far outpaces any of his Democratic rivals and underscores his advantage with and dependence on a key Democratic constituency. Harris had peaked at 11 Black Caucus endorsements.

“He will be the kind of president who will be able to relate to every demographic in the country, north, south, middle America,” Bishop told The Associated Press in an interview ahead of his public announcement. “He’ll be able to empathize and be taken seriously by every demographic. He’s not so far to the left that he would put off anyone.”

Bishop’s colleagues offered similar sentiments via written statements, echoing the candidate’s contention that he’s the Democrat best-positioned to win in November and handle the aftermath.

“Our candidate needs to have the strength to beat Donald Trump and the heart to bring this country together, for the sake of our children,” Wilson said.

Florida, with 219 pledged delegates at stake March 17, and Georgia, with 105 pledged delegates at stake on March 24, will hold two of the most significant primaries after the March 3 Super Tuesday slate when Democrats will scramble for more than a third of the total 3,979 pledged delegates. New Jersey, meanwhile, is among the last contests. But its 126 pledged delegates on June 2 could prove crucial if Democrats’ historically large field results in a drawn-out fight that requires every primary and caucus to determine a nominee.

Black voters hold significant sway in choosing the Democratic nominee. Biden has maintained a lead in most national polls of Democratic voters because he’s the clear favorite of African American voters, especially older ones. Consequently, he appears to hold a wide advantage, for now, in South Carolina, the South’s first primary and the first state contest with a large contingent of black voters. Yet in the overwhelmingly white early states of Iowa and New Hampshire, Biden is clustered with other top contenders: Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg.

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