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Biden, Harris launch Black voter group as they aim to blunt Trump’s gains

President Biden and Vice President Harris traveled to Philadelphia on Wednesday to launch “Black Voters for Biden-Harris,” each using stark language to present the prospect of a return to the White House by Donald Trump as a dire threat to communities of color.

“Folks, all progress, all freedom, all opportunities are at risk,” Biden said at a rally at Girard College, a majority-Black boarding school in the city. “Trump is trying to make the country forget just how dark and unsettling things were when he was president.”

He went on to say that the “threat that Trump poses is greater in his second term than his first,” describing an America under the former president as a place of “anger, resentment and hate.”

Featuring top Black leaders from across the country, the rally was the latest sign that Biden is trying to shore up his support with a crucial constituency. Biden also planned to visit a Black-owned small business and meet with local volunteers, campaign officials said.

The moves, which follow a string of events for Black voters in recent weeks, underscore how much Biden’s electoral fate hinges on his ability to gin up support from what has been his most loyal voting bloc. As the president pushes to sell his record and his vision to Black voters, polling suggests they are less eager to support him than they were in 2020. Biden’s ability to reverse the slide in cities such as Philadelphia could ultimately determine whether he wins another term, strategists say.

Harris used her speech to praise Biden’s record on issues including health care and student loan forgiveness, and to echo his message that letting Trump back into office would be dangerous to Black communities.

“Who sits in the White House matters,” Harris told the lively crowd of a few hundred supporters. “It matters for the people of America and for people around the world.”

The Biden campaign billed Wednesday’s event as a show of force that highlights the differences between the two rivals when it comes to issues important to Black voters. Trump has been seeking to cut into Biden’s advantage among voters of color, making a direct appeal in social media posts, visits to fast-food restaurants and at rallies in places such as the South Bronx.

Trump has criticized Biden’s policies as detrimental to Black Americans, focusing on crime, immigration and inflation. He has also sought to use his legal troubles to shore up support among Black voters, suggesting that his mug shot had made him more popular in urban communities.

“I’m being indicted for you, the Black population,” Trump, who is facing dozens of criminal charges, said in a February speech to Black Republicans.

Biden aides say they are making a more serious push to cater to Black voters, pointing to the president’s policy agenda and his campaign’s heavy spending to engage the Black community. They dismissed Trump’s efforts as unserious and touted an eight-figure investment from the Biden campaign to reach Black voters this summer.

“No campaign has valued Black voters like we have, including through investing earlier and with more money than ever before talking to Black voters,” the Biden campaign said in a statement.

Wednesday’s event featured Maryland Gov. Wes Moore (D), campaign co-chair Cedric L. Richmond, Philadelphia Mayor Cherelle Parker (D) and several other Black leaders, who have pledged to hit the campaign trail and the airwaves in the days ahead to build support for the president.

Biden’s team also plans to intensify its attacks against Trump on his record and rhetoric toward Black voters, branding the former president as a racist. During his remarks, Biden called out Trump for “lies” and described him as “the same guy who wanted to tear gas you” during racial justice protests and “that landlord who denies housing application because of the color of your skin.”

While Black Americans continue to give Trump low marks, polls show Biden losing support among Black voters. Concerns about the economy, inflation, the war in Gaza and the slow pace of racial progress have driven some to consider backing Trump, voting for a third-party candidate or staying home altogether.

A drop in turnout among Black voters — one of Biden’s most loyal constituencies in 2020 — would be devastating to his reelection chances, according to strategists. Biden aides said that Wednesday’s events in Philadelphia, including a voter registration phone bank with Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), would kick off a nationwide push to increase support for Biden among Black voters.

Only 62 percent of Black Americans say they are “absolutely certain to vote,” down from 74 percent in June 2020, according to a Washington Post-Ipsos poll conducted last month. The 12-percentage-point drop outpaces the four-point drop among Americans overall, from 72 percent to 68 percent.

Biden and Harris have tried to counter such erosion with direct appeals to Black audiences. In recent days, Biden has spoken to graduating students at Morehouse College, NAACP organizers in Detroit, and members of Black sororities and fraternities in Washington. Harris has been on a tour focusing on economic opportunity for Black Americans.

“If anyone wonders whether their vote matters, remember … because Black Americans voted, Kamala and I are president and vice president of the United States,” Biden said. “Because you voted, Donald Trump is a defeated former president. Now, with your vote and your vote in 2024, we’re going to make Donald Trump a loser again.”

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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