© Reuters. U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks, during a campaign event focusing on abortion rights at the Hylton Performing Arts Center, in Manassas, Virginia, U.S., January 23, 2024. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein/File Photo
By Jarrett Renshaw and Steve Holland
COLUMBIA, South Carolina (Reuters) -President Joe Biden on Saturday drew a stark contrast with top Republican rival Donald Trump, making the case that Trump failed to support the rights of Black citizens and represents a threat to the U.S economy and democracy.
Biden’s comments came during a dinner on Saturday to celebrate elevating South Carolina and its large base of Black voters to first place in the Democratic Party’s calendar of contests to nominate a candidate for the November election.
Biden rattled off a list of his accomplishments as president that he said helped a broad swath of Americans, including Black citizens.
Those included a hiring a diverse White House staff, greater investments in historically Black colleges, lower insulin costs, student debt relief and appointing the first Black woman to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Promises made, promises kept,” Biden declared.
His speech was interrupted three separate times by protesters critical of Biden’s cozy relationship with Israel and the killing of Palestinians.
The president has been getting mixed reviews from some Black voters who backed him in 2020, including discontent over his failure to deliver on voting rights legislation and other issues. Although Democrats have no hope of winning the state in November, Biden hopes the focus on South Carolina will help bolster support among Black voters.
Biden, setting up for a likely rematch of the 2020 contest against Trump, said his Republican rival is “growing a little confused these days.”
“He apparently can’t tell the difference between Nikki Haley and Nancy Pelosi,” Biden referring to a recent speech where Trump repeatedly referred to his Republican rival Haley as Pelosi, former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.
On his way to the dinner, Biden and U.S. Representative James Clyburn, whose endorsement in 2020 catapulted him to the White House, stopped at the Regal Lounge barber shop in downtown Columbia, where they shook hands and took selfies with the largely Black patrons.
Biden noted that South Carolina put him in the White House with a resounding victory in the 2020 Democratic primary that salvaged his campaign.
“The truth is I wouldn’t be here without the people of South Carolina,” Biden said. “You are the reason that I’m president.”
The Democratic primary in South Carolina is on Feb. 3 and Biden is expected to win handily as he carves an easy path to the party’s nomination.
Steven Cheung, a Trump spokesperson, said Biden has been “losing badly with Americans of all backgrounds because they had to live through hid disastrous presidency.”
The dinner marked the end of a busy week for the Biden campaign. Surrogates like California Governor Gavin Newsom and Marcia Fudge, head of the agency that oversees federal housing, crisscrossed the state to mobilize voters for the primary.
New Hampshire held its Democratic primary earlier this month despite Biden’s efforts to move it down the nominating calendar. Biden skipped the event, but supporters organized a successful write-in campaign.
Biden’s longshot Democratic challenger, Minnesota congressman Dean Phillips, addressed the crowd of largely Biden supporters. He offered some humility, saying 90% of the room or more will likely support Biden in the primary.
He said every primary needs at least two candidates, even if the race is not much of a contest.
“I am happy to be that other guy,” Phillips said before asking the crowd to stop chattering and let him speak unabated.