Joe Biden gets major South Carolina endorsement from former Harris backers

Columbia, South Carolina – A prominent group of black women activists in South Carolina that backed Kamala Harris endorsed Joe Biden on Tuesday, further strengthening the former vice president's standing in the first-in-the-South primary state.

Known as "The Reckoning Crew," the group of three dozen women includes current and former elected officials, activists, and faith leaders and has played a critical role in grassroots organizing in the state. Biden's path to the nomination relies heavily on the South Carolina primary, which figures to play an outsized role in determining the party's presidential nominee because of its high percentage of African American voters.

"It's time for us to unite as one and put all of our energy behind the candidate who will not only beat Donald Trump but knows how to fix what he's broken on day one," said the group's founder, Bernice Scott, a former Richland County councilwoman. "And from there, we are confident Joe will continue to build on the history he made with Barack Obama."

The latest CBS News battleground tracker poll found Biden leading South Carolina by 28 points. 

Scott hosts regular gatherings with the group of women at her home near Columbia to talk about politics and organizing over potluck meals, and is a fixture in local politics. Scott's granddaughter, Jalisa Washington-Price, was Harris' South Carolina state director. After Harris exited the race, members of the group were surprised and felt a bit lost, Scott told CBS News, believing that the California Senator's presence in the 2020 presidential race was a powerful symbol. 

Harris' exit also came as Biden's continued to shore up support among black voters, and could give some indication of where Harris' supporters might gravitate. The latest CBS News battleground tracker poll found that among Harris supporters, 38 percent would back Warren and 22 percent would Biden as second choices. 

Scott told CBS News that she was drawn to Biden because "it's a connection, and because he worked well with President Obama for the last eight years he was there. For me, familiarity is important." Asked about Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who is struggling to gain support among black voters, Scott said, "Honestly, I've never given any thought to him. His policies sound good, but I don't know."

But some Harris supporters in the state caution that support isn't always easily transferable. 

"It's not going to be just a natural 'Kamala's not in the race, I'm going here,' because Kamala's supporters — just like every other black woman I know in my life — she earned them, they weren't given to her," said State Rep. JA Moore, an early Harris backer and surrogate. "Every other candidate must earn Kamala supporters' support, so there is no clear answer to that, it has to be earned."

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