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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

ATLANTA — President Joe Biden told party loyalists in Georgia that they’re critical to his reelection, signaling the state’s importance as he steps up efforts to reach Black voters.

“Georgia is the reason I’m president of the United States,” Biden said at a campaign reception Saturday in Atlanta. “Our freedoms and democracy are at stake in the literal sense, not in hyperbole: It’s real. That’s why I need you so badly.”

Biden’s weekend trip to Georgia, a state he won by fewer than 12,000 votes in 2020, includes a commencement address on Sunday at Morehouse College, a historically Black school whose alumni include civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

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 MLK and Coretta Scott King, said in a Bloomberg Television interview this week. “There are people in the Black community who are feeling like not a lot has changed, especially economically.”

Biden combined his appeals for Democratic Party supporters to turn out in November with jabs at Trump, describing his expected election opponent as “unhinged” and a threat to democracy. Trump was in Dallas on Saturday to address a meeting of the National Rifle Association, which endorsed him for a second term.

 

Biden also travels to Detroit on Sunday to visit a Black-owned small business and speak at a National Association for the Advancement of Colored People dinner, capping a week that included a White House event celebrating the 1954 Supreme Court ruling to desegregate public schools and a meeting with 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 less than 1% of Black voters had chosen Trump or stayed home.

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