Joe Biden Suggests He Turned Out as Many Black Voters as Obama in 2008, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden walk through the Crypt of the Capitol for Donald Trump's inauguration ceremony, in Washington, January 20, 2017. (Photo by J. Scott Applewhite - Pool/Getty Images)
J. Scott Applewhite - Pool/Getty Images

Joe Biden suggested on Monday he was just as responsible for ginning up turnout among black voters in 2008 and 2012 as his former running mate, President Barack Obama.

The former vice president, who has engendered strong backing from black American Democrats in his quest for the presidency, made the comments during an interview with Politico on Monday in Iowa. Biden was questioned about his relationship with Obama amid reports that the former president does not believe his campaign lacks an “intimate bond” with voters.

Biden responded by saying he did not ask Obama for his support, despite running as the former president’s legacy candidate, and would not do so even once the race narrowed. He further added that he did not need the endorsement and that former president was not as crucial to putting together the vaunted Obama coalition as many believe. In particular, Biden suggested he deserved just as much credit as Obama for ginning up black turnout in states like Pennsylvania, Colorado, Virginia, and Florida.

“I was the one who was sent in,” the former vice president said. “And the reason was because all the polling and data showed that I had those relationships with the base of the Democratic Party as well as African-Americans. And so I did as many African-Americans events as Barack did.”

Although it is difficult to gauge how vital Biden was in spurring black support for Obama’s presidential campaign, especially since he and the president were together on a ticket, history can serve something as a guide. In both his 1988 and 2008 presidential bids, Biden courted black American voters but each time was tripped up by his work with segregationist Democrats to oppose busing during the early portion of his career.

Most notably, during his failed 1988 bid, Biden drew criticism for lying about his civil rights activism and also for lecturing black leaders to move past busing. Both strategies backfired and only served to fuel black support for the candidacy of Jesse Jackson, a civil rights leader then making a second bid for the Democrat nomination.

Biden’s 2008 run fared no better in attracting widespread black support. Even though then-Sen. Joe Biden was respected among black leaders, his authoring of the 1994 crime bill — which adversely impacted young black Americans males at disproportionate rates — and prior support for busing made him an unattractive candidate. Polling shows that even when then-Sen. Hillary Clinton was leading Obama by as much as double digits among black voters, Biden still polled lower.

Such a history has not stopped the former vice president from claiming his support among black Democrats, particularly in the early primary state of South Carolina, stems from a deeper connection.

“I come out of the black community in terms of my support,” Biden said at the Democrat presidential primary debate last month.


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