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Biden makes pitch to Black voters in Philadelphia as polls show declining support

Biden, Harris visit Philadelphia to launch Black voter outreach campaign
Biden, Harris visit Philadelphia to launch Black voter outreach campaign 02:15

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- With the 2024 race to the White House ramping up, President Biden traveled to Pennsylvania on Wednesday for another campaign event in Philadelphia.

On his latest stop in the Keystone State, Mr. Biden was joined by Vice President Kamala Harris. The president and vice president appeared at Girard College in Fairmount to launch their "Black Voters for Biden-Harris" initiative.

"I promise to put racial equality at the center of everything I do because I vowed I would have an administration that looked like America," Mr. Biden said. "Because you voted, we are invested more than ever in Black families and communities." 

Mr. Biden's message was simple, life is better for Black Americans under his administration. Black voters helped secure the White House for Mr. Biden in 2020 when he captured 87% of the Black vote compared to just 12% for former President Donald Trump.

But recent polling shows some Black voters may not feel the same way. A March CBS News poll showed Trump nearly doubling his support among Black voters to 23%. Experts say that erosion of support in November would be costly for Mr. Biden.    

"As long as Donald Trump is able to hold on to that 20% or even close to it, 18%, 17%, that's going to be a significant hurdle for Biden to overcome," Joe Watkins, former White House aide to President George H.W. Bush, said. 

Watkins believes messaging has been a problem for the president, with too much of a focus on Trump's character.

"Black voters want to know 'What are you going to do for me, besides tell me the other guy is a bad guy. What are you going to do for me from a standpoint of the economy?'" Watkins said.

Officials with the Trump campaign say they believe the former president stands out to Black voters because he isn't a traditional Republican, and believe he's made an effort to meet voters where they live.

"Our strategy and message is very simple: President Trump has been showing up in communities that are predominantly minority communities," Trump campaign spokesperson Janiyah Thomas said. 

The Pennsylvania Republican Party responded to Mr. Biden's visit to Philadelphia as well, hitting him on the economy, which will be a top-of-mind issue for all voters come November.

"If he wasn't so hopelessly out of touch, Biden would recognize the toll his inflation is taking on Pennsylvania consumers, who can't afford the same basic necessities they could before he became president. Pennsylvanians need affordable groceries to put on the table tonight, affordable gas to get to work in the morning — and relief from relentless price gouging. Joe Biden is clearly the wrong man for the job," PAGOP Chairman Lawrence Tabas wrote.

But Biden campaign officials said they aren't worried about the poll numbers. They say this new initiative will help them get the word out about the work Mr. Biden has done for Black Americans.

"Millions of new jobs created for Black workers, record-low Black unemployment, Black-owned small businesses starting up at the fastest pace in generations," Biden-Harris campaign spokesperson Jasmine Harris said.

Mr. Biden also visited a Black-owned small business in the city, where he met with local business owners to "continue discussions around this administration's commitment to increasing Black wealth."

In Philly, City Councilmember Isaiah Thomas launched an initiative earlier this year to register 2,024 Black Philadelphians to vote. In talking with Black voters, Thomas says he hasn't exactly seen a shift toward Trump.

"I very rarely hear somebody say they're going to vote for Trump," Isaiah Thomas said. "If anything, I hear people say they're not going to vote at all."

Non-voters could also spell trouble for Mr. Biden. It's partially why he and Harris were together to launch the campaign. Mr. Biden used his time to try to remind voters of what he says he's accomplished for Black Americans, pointing to low Black unemployment, economic opportunity, and increased access to healthcare.

Both Isaiah Thomas and Watkins say its these kinds of messages the campaign needs to continue to push, if they hope to draw this all-important voting bloc.

"Giving them tangible things that people can relate to, so we can explain to them how their life has changed over the last couple years in a positive way," Isaiah Thomas said.

"For President Biden, you have to do more than just tell people Trump is a bad person, and that you shouldn't vote for him. You have to tell the voters what you're going to do for them," Watkins said.

Initiative aimed at mobilizing Black voters

According to the Biden team, the Black Voters for Biden-Harris campaign involves an eight-figure investment in programming with Black community groups and student and faith-based organizations in battleground states and across the country.

Throughout the summer, the coalition will work to increase outreach to Black voters, work to improve voter education and registration and according to the campaign, "safeguard the Black vote from continued MAGA attacks."

"This coalition and the newly announced summer outreach and engagement programming serve as the next phase of our campaign's ongoing historic investments in outreach to the backbone of the Biden-Harris coalition – Black voter," deputy campaign manager Quentin Fulks said in part in a statement. "While we are busy putting in the work to earn Black America's support – Donald Trump continues to show just how ignorant he is. Hosting janky rap concerts to hide the fact that he lacks the resources and competence to genuinely engage our community."

The Black Voters for Biden-Harris launch is the latest move by the Democratic incumbent to court Black voters. Earlier this month, Mr. Biden delivered the commencement address at Morehouse College, a historically Black college in Atlanta, before traveling to Detroit to meet with Black business owners and address the NAACP's "Fight for Freedom Fund" dinner.

In a March CBS News poll in Georgia, 82% of Black voters said they'd vote for Mr. Biden, compared to 88% in a 2020 exit poll. In an April CBS News poll in Michigan, Mr. Biden got support from 77% of Black voters, with other third party options on the ballot. 

President Biden, Vice President Harris visit Philadelphia in effort to win over Black voters 01:53

Biden and Harris making frequent visits to Pennsylvania

The president has already made multiple visits to Pennsylvania this year, most recently in April when he spent three days crisscrossing the commonwealth for appearances in Pittsburgh, Scranton and Philadelphia.

While in Philly on April 18, Mr. Biden was endorsed by members of the Kennedy family during an event at the Martin Luther King Jr. Rec Center.

Harris has also been to Pennsylvania several times this campaign season. On May 21, the vice president was the keynote speaker at the SEIU International Convention. Earlier in the month, the vice president appeared alongside actress Sheryl Lee Ralph in Montgomery County for a discussion on abortion access and women's health care.

In April, a CBS News poll found Mr. Biden and Trump were locked in a close race in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, all of which have proven to be key battleground states.

After trading criticism back and forth in speeches and on social media, Mr. Biden and Trump agreed to meet for two debates before the November election, first on June 27 and then again on Sept. 10.

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