Biden-Harris campaign reads the room with Black voters, takes offensive on Trump 

The reelection team invited theGrio to its headquarters to learn more about its campaign operations and how it plans to win over the votes of Black Americans for a second time.

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris stand onstage and wave to the crowd at a ”Reproductive Freedom Campaign Rally" on Jan. 23 at George Mason University in Manassas, Virginia. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

TheGrio recently visited the Biden-Harris campaign’s headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, to participate in a Black press roundtable with senior staff officials to discuss President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris’ record and what the reelection operation is doing to court Black voters.

As the 2024 presidential election continues to build steam, the campaign hopes its early engagement with the Black electorate will pay off as the contest gets closer to what every primary election and poll has been pointing to for months: a rematch of Biden versus former President Donald Trump.

Based on conversations with campaign staff during theGrio’s day trip to Biden-Harris HQ, it’s clear that the campaign is projecting a sense of strength and confidence in the president’s chances of winning reelection despite reported concerns about his age and polls showing some Black voters aren’t yet sold on casting their ballots for another four years of Biden and Harris.

“We feel like if we’ve won it before, we can win it again, or we should be able to,” said Quentin Fulks, Biden-Harris deputy campaign manager. 

While Fulks acknowledged that the Black vote has been “steadily declining for the Democratic Party,” he noted that it’s “not a Joe Biden and Kamala Harris phenomenon.” He explained, “That is a Democratic problem writ large. But [for] every campaign that comes along, it’s our problem now to deal with in order to get our candidates reelected.”

The campaign’s strategy in combating disillusionment among Black voters is to employ a “persuasion campaign” by reminding them what the Biden-Harris administration has done for Black communities. Through early investments in ads and paid media, the campaign is targeting eight battleground states where there are significant Black populations that could tip the scale in favor of the president and vice president: Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Georgia, Arizona, Nevada, North Carolina, and Florida.

Ashley Nealy waits in line in Atlanta in October 2020 on the first day of early voting. This year, Georgia is again one of the battleground states the Biden-Harris campaign is targeting. (Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)

Michael Tyler, Biden-Harris campaign communications director, told reporters that while campaign operatives and the media may be aware that the election is well underway as Biden and Trump close in on the Democratic and Republican nominations, respectively, most voters have yet to tune in to the election cycle. The campaign sees that as an opportunity to build an infrastructure to win over Black Americans. 

“We are laser-focused on reaching Black voters early and often to communicate the ways the president and vice president have delivered for us: historically low Black unemployment, billions invested in HBCUs, billions forgiven in student loan debt, Black child poverty cut in half during their first year in office, and Black small businesses starting up at the fastest rate in 30 years,” said Jasmine Harris, the Biden-Harris campaign’s director of Black media.

“This is not, for me, the lesser of two evils. Joe Biden absolutely deserves to be reelected,” said former U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, the campaign’s national co-chair. “I think he has earned the African-American vote due to his actions, deeds, and accomplishments.”

Richmond, who entered the White House with Biden on Day One as a senior adviser and director of the Office of Public Engagement, said he joined the administration because the president explained to him personally how “dead serious” he was about prioritizing racial equity in his administration’s policy agenda.

The campaign co-chair noted that rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court and the lower courts and obstruction from Republicans in Congress have prevented the Biden-Harris White House from fully executing its plan to make life more equitable for Black communities.  

“We put $5 billion in for Black farmers who had been systemically discriminated against from the Department of [Agriculture]. The [federal] court blocked it,” said Richmond, who also noted, “The Supreme Court blocked student loans.” 

Cedric Richmond (left), a senior adviser seen with President Joe Biden at a 2021 meeting, is national co-chair of the reelection campaign. He said Biden has “earned the African-American vote.” (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

He said Congress, where Democrats needed at least 60 U.S. senators to vote in favor of Biden’s policies, “blocked voting rights” and “blocked the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.” He added that after both moves, Biden “went and did as much as he possibly could by executive order.” 

Team Biden-Harris is also going on the offensive. Ahead of tonight’s State of the Union address, the campaign deployed a bevy of talking points about how Trump as president failed Black Americans, including shepherding a spike in the Black unemployment rate, issuing tax cuts that primarily benefited white, wealthy households, and damaging Black businesses through his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. The campaign also recalled Trump’s repeated proposals or attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which has expanded health care access for millions of Black Americans, and slash the budgets for Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare, and food stamps. 

In a memo provided to theGrio, the Biden-Harris campaign also listed the actions Trump would take if reelected. The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, crafted the so-called “Project 25” agenda for a second Trump administration. As The New York Times reported, Trump, with the help of this presidential transition operation led by Heritage, aims to purge the federal government of career civil servants and replace agency staff with people who would be more politically loyal to him. 

Campaigning in South Carolina a day before the state’s Feb. 24 Republican primary, former President Donald Trump addressed the Black Conservative Federation in Columbia. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

Through pronouncements already made by Trump or action items laid out by Project 25, the Biden-Harris campaign warned that if he returns to the White House, the twice-impeached, four-times indicted former Republican president would seek to ban abortion nationally, end anti-discrimination rules in housing aimed to protect Black Americans and put a stop to Biden’s order requiring the federal government to address racial inequality. 

The campaign also warned that Trump would seek to claw back billions in funding achieved by Biden and Democrats for infrastructure and climate improvements and end student debt relief, among other actions.  

“Donald Trump’s plan for Black America can be described in two words: demean and destroy. His record of damaging, insulting, and discriminating against Black Americans spans generations, and he has every intention of utilizing the most powerful position in the world to continue doing so,” said Jasmine Harris, the Biden-Harris campaign’s Black media director. 

“From refusing to rent apartments to Black tenants as a landlord to praising KKK members as president, there is no question that Donald Trump is hell-bent on using every position of power available to him to push us back instead of propelling us forward.”

She added, “Black Americans have endured enough. We simply cannot afford another Donald Trump presidency.”

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Gerren Keith Gaynor

Gerren Keith Gaynor is a White House Correspondent and the Managing Editor of Politics at theGrio. He is based in Washington, D.C.

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