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In South Carolina, Kamala Harris and Joe Biden in black and white

MYRTLE BEACH, South Carolina When experts discuss the Democratic presidential primary here in South Carolina, they usually focus on one problem: who will black voters support? This is an important question. African-Americans are an essential part of the Democratic coalition, but they are mostly absent from the first Democratic contests of the first season in Iowa, where the 2016 Democratic caucus participants were 91% white and 3% black, and in New Hampshire, 93% white. and 2% black. South Carolina, whose primary Democratic electorate of 2016 was 61% black and 35% white, is the first state in which black voters will be flexible, which has been critical for the election of Democratic presidents for a long time.

Yet White Democrats are a force in South Carolina; 35% is not nothing. It seems obvious, if not often discussed, that the strongest candidate will be the one who can get the most votes from both groups.

Thus, when a line of more than 1,000 people, the vast majority of them are white, waited Monday midday at the center of the conventions of Myrtle Beach, all waiting to see Kamala Harris, the only black woman of the race, told something about the California senator. call – especially after Harris has attracted large crowds in the very black areas of the state.

Harris was on a roll after the first Democratic debate on June 27. During the most discussed face-to-face debate, she immediately exchanged with the leader, Joe Biden, on the question – who would have predicted? – For bus in the 1970s. For some moderate and Republicans, Harris' attack made no sense – Biden was clearly right – and she partially withdrew from her position thereafter. But many Democrats liked the fact that she boldly introduced him to the party leader, leaving Biden stammering and confused.

A CNN survey conducted shortly after the debate showed that Biden lost 10 points, while Harris gained nine points. A Quinnipiac survey conducted at the same time indicated an even more dramatic change among black voters: Biden down 17 points and Harris up 16. In Myrtle Beach, Harris still outflows the wave. White and black voters were beaten.

"I love his intelligence, his courage, his articulation, his experience and his command of politics," said Lisa Hinkson, a white man from Pawleys Island. "I love her coolness – all these things appeal to me a lot, she is impressive."

"You can just put the same thing," said Joe DiLorenzo, a friend of Carolina Forest's Hinkson.

"She was dynamic and I liked her vision," said Ray Smith, Black, of Murrells Inlet.

Is there another candidate?

"Not at this point," Smith replied. "I promise him all my support."

"Same thing," says Smith's wife, Kathy. "I'm everything for her."

In South Carolina, a Biden-Harris breed has a special resonance, not only in black and white, but also in past and present. Previously, Biden had traveled to South Carolina to give praise to Strom Thurmond, state governor from 1947 to 1951 and senator from 1956 to 2003, and Ernest Hollings, Governor from 1959 to 1963 and Senator from 1966-2005. Biden, who served in the Senate from 1973 to 2009, was a younger colleague of both men. (As happened this week, Biden was in South Carolina at the same time as Harris, making the news apologizing for his words about his ability to work with old Senate colleagues, segregationists, James O. Eastland , who served in the Senate from 1943-1978, and Herman Talmadge, who served from 1957 to 1981.)

Of course, Biden spent eight years as vice president of the country's first black president, Barack Obama. But even those years are receding at Trump's age, and Biden will be 78 years old on the day of the inauguration, 2021, the same age that President Trump would be on leaving function if it fulfills two mandates. Biden is, in short, a man out of the past. Harris is the present.

And South Carolina is no longer the state of Strom Thurmond or Ernest Hollings. He has a black senator and twice elected an Indo-American woman as governor. Many white Democrats would be quite comfortable supporting Harris rather than Biden. "I think white voters think Harris is an alternative to Biden," said longtime political scientist David Woodard in South Carolina. "Biden has praised Thurmond and Hollings, but this is old news: New voters are open to a liberal, urban and multicultural candidate for Democrats." Harris could do the trick. "

In Myrtle Beach, voters of all types worried about Biden's age. Chad Horton, Leslie and Willie Byrd, black and from Myrtle Beach, said that they liked Harris well, but that they had not decided on their candidacy yet. In any case, they had real concerns about Biden.

"Honestly, I do not think he'll stay ahead," Horton said.

"I do not think so either," said Leslie Byrd. "I think he's filing in. He's losing momentum right now."

"It's starting to slow down," Horton added. "He can not think so fast, on the move, he's shaking, I do not think he could beat Trump on stage in a real debate, I think Trump would just tear him up."

Willie Byrd said that he was considering supporting Biden. "But now, since I'm starting to get an idea of ​​him, I'd say somehow no."

Dennis and Joann Fahey, who are Caucasian and live in Myrtle Beach, were both impressed by Harris – "She is very good standing" – and concerned about Biden.

"I like the guy," Dennis said. "We're from the South Jersey-Philadelphia area, so we've known him for a long time, and we think his time may have passed and he's gone."

Has Biden lost a step?

"He could have it, that's what I say."

Ray Smith was also troubled. "I do not think it's [Biden] has the energy to last all the way. We have a year and a half left, and we need someone who is dynamic and who has the vision of everyone. "

For all those who watched Harris on the Senate Judiciary Committee, it is important to know that during the election campaign, she adopted a totally different personality. She is warm and inclusive and is deeply grateful that you have taken the time to visit her.

"God, I just want to thank everyone for this afternoon," Harris told the crowd. "There are so many things you could do with your time, and that you chose to spend it with us, it really matters to me, I just want to thank you, thank you for your time, I want to thank you for your time. "

It is a Senator Harris that, for example, Attorney General William Barr or Justice Brett Kavanaugh of the Supreme Court would not recognize.

Harris's platform, of course, is a purely enlightened progressivism. A large part of the crowd was with her. But there were at least a few people looking for some moderation. When Harris finished speaking, the first question was asked by a man who wanted to benefit from "Medicare for all", but who was worried about the upheavals caused by too fast adoption of a new system. He wished to see preliminary steps, such as lowering the age of eligibility for Medicare at age 55. Harris was a conciliator and seemed to satisfy him when she said, "It can not happen overnight – there will be a transition period."

Later, a woman asked about immigration in a way that sent Harris into a telling monologue.

"I'm calling Joanne and I really want to, really beat Trump," the woman started.

"Me too," said Harris.

"I'm afraid the Democrats focus only on the humanitarian issues at the border and do not put forward policies that control or reduce the flow of immigrants from the North Triangle," Joanne said. "How would you address President Trump when he claims that Democrats are for the opening of borders?"

Harris first ignored the question. She talked about separating children from their parents. About people fleeing the "capitals of the murder of the world" to come to the United States. Why would a mother bring her child on a dangerous journey to this country? About the detention center she had just visited in Homestead, Florida. "Stop human rights abuses and shut down these private detention centers," Harris said forcefully.

Of course, that was not the question.

"Now, on the issue of border security," continued Harris. "We need to enforce our laws and keep our borders safe, that's part of what this president is really trying to mislead the American people to say that the Democrats do not care about border security." I can speak for myself : I am absolutely in favor of border security – we must, every country has to worry about that, and we are, of course, doing it. "

Beyond her general statement, Harris did not mention any action she could take to strengthen border security. And she quickly returned to denouncing the president's proposal to create a border fence – "By the way, this wall will not be built" – and told the public that the Americans "played" a role in it. ;immigration.

Some audience members may not have been satisfied with this. But immigration is only one problem among so many others. And all in all, they left happy.

Harris and Biden are not the only candidates in the democratic race of South Carolina. A number of people who came to Harris Town Hall said that they were still shopping, that they had their eyes riveted on other people, in addition to Harris. The Faheys watch others, just like the Byrds. While Chad Horton said he was leaning towards Harris, he also said that he was looking at Elizabeth Warren.

"And I like little Pete," Horton added.

"Little Pete?"

"Yes, little Pete," said Horton, laughing. Horton explained that he thought that mayor Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, in Indiana, had been effective and that he had done a good job dealing with the police crisis in his city. But Horton liked Harris more.

It is still too early to see a definitive pattern in South Carolina. In 2007 and 2008, Hillary Clinton was leading the Democratic primary race here, but when black voters realized that Barack Obama was the real deal, not a contested contest or contest contender, they flocked to support him. Obama overtook Clinton in the Democratic primary with overwhelming support from blacks, but he also won about 25 percent of the white votes in a three-way race with Clinton and John Edwards.

This could perhaps be a model for Harris, in the role of Obama, and Biden, in the role of Clinton. "Hillary was popular in early 2008, but Obama devastated it last month," said David Woodard. "Now, the old liberal base of Hillary Clinton who does not fear the roots of UC Berkeley could be a potential band for Harris.If this happens, and that Harris wins here, it could be the end of Biden."

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