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Joe Biden's Atlanta trip highlights duel for Black voters with Donald Trump

Skylar Woodhouse and Nancy Cook, Bloomberg News on

Published in Political News

President Joe Biden is stepping up a push to reach Black voters with weekend trips to students in Atlanta and business leaders in Detroit, signaling his need to lock in a bloc that’s critical to his reelection chances in November.

While overwhelming support from Black voters was key to Biden’s victory in 2020, there’s concern among his supporters and evidence in polls that former President Donald Trump is making inroads. That increases pressure on Biden to connect with Black voters who say he hasn’t delivered enough on promises such as canceling student debt or increasing their prosperity.

“I feel there are people that feel they are not getting their issues heard or represented,” Bernice King, the youngest child of civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, warned in a Bloomberg Television interview this week. “I think there are people in the Black community who are feeling like not a lot has changed, especially economically.”

Biden’s team is redoubling its outreach as some Black leaders call on him to step up his engagement and as his election rematch with Trump takes shape with this week’s announcement of two debates, starting in June.

Biden is slated to give the commencement address at Morehouse College, a historically Black school in Atlanta and Martin Luther King Jr.’s alma mater, on Sunday.

He’ll also visit a Black-owned small business and speak at a National Association for the Advancement of Colored People dinner in Detroit, capping a week that included a White House event celebrating the 1954 Supreme Court ruling to desegregate public schools and a meeting with the “Divine Nine” historically Black fraternities and sororities.

 

Campus protests against Biden’s handling of the Israel-Hamas war are adding risk to his bid to repair ties with Black voters. Stephen Benjamin, a senior presidential adviser, met May 10 with a group of Morehouse students and faculty amid concern about Biden’s selection as commencement speaker, in large part due to dissent over his handling of the war in Gaza.

Closer to home, Black unemployment is up almost 1 percentage point over the past year from a record low of 4.8% in April 2023.

Black voters make up some 33% of the electorate in Georgia, while Atlanta, the state capital, is home to the second-largest Black population in the US. Biden won Georgia by 11,779 votes in 2020, meaning that the state’s 16 Electoral College votes could have gone the other way if fewer than 1% of Black voters had chosen Trump or stayed home.

Black voters favored Biden over Trump by 63% to 27% in the latest Bloomberg News/Morning Consult poll of swing states, which has a 4 percentage-point margin of error. That compares with 92% Black support for Biden in the 2020 election, according to Pew Research Center data.

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