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    Kamala Harris is Biden’s secret weapon in North Carolina

    By Amie Parnes,

    30 days ago

    Vice President Harris has become the Biden campaign’s secret weapon in North Carolina, a battleground state the incumbents say they can win in November.

    Harris this week made her fifth trip this year to the state, where she has spent much of her time speaking directly to Black communities — particularly Black men, a demographic President Biden has been struggling to court — to tout the administration’s accomplishments as part of a broader nationwide economic tour.
    Vice President Harris looks on as President Biden gives a speech on health care at an event in Raleigh, N.C., Tuesday, March. 26, 2024. (AP Photo/Matt Kelley)

    “I believe very strongly that the accomplishments of our administration — such as creating 15 million new jobs; creating over 800,000 new manufacturing jobs; the historic low unemployment, particularly for the Black community, are very important. Critically important,” Harris said Wednesday at a moderated discussion in Charlotte, alongside actor Michael Ealy and television commentator Bakari Sellers, both of whom are Black.

    “I’m very aware that, you know, we can do all this good stuff in Washington, D.C., but if it doesn’t hit the streets, it doesn’t matter,” Harris said.

    Democrats say Harris’s string of trips shows the campaign’s investment in North Carolina as they try to steal away a state won by former President Trump in 2020. And Harris is a central part of that strategy, those close to the campaign say.

    “She’s one of the administration’s best spokespeople to the Black community,” said Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons, who served as Harris’s communications director until last year. “The president has been making the case to the Black community as well, but obviously the VP has a different kind of appeal.”

    Democratic strategist Joel Payne said Harris can be effective as a surrogate for Biden with Democratic voters, including African Americans.

    “I think there is a relationship between putting her out there more and having her go on offense more with how she is being received more positively on the campaign trail,” Payne said.

    Still, even Biden allies acknowledge winning North Carolina could be an uphill battle, even with Harris’s visits. A Democratic nominee hasn’t delivered that state since 2008, when then-Illinois Sen. Barack Obama won the presidency.

    And with less than five months until Election Day, Trump has a healthy lead in the state, according to polls.

    A poll published last week by East Carolina University’s Center for Survey Research showed Trump leading Biden by 5 points in the state, 48 percent support to 43 percent.

    In the aggregate of key polls by Decision Desk HQ and The Hill , Trump holds a 5.4 point lead over Biden.

    “I think we’re dreaming,” one Democratic strategist acknowledged. “It’s great that the vice president is spending time there. It’s what we should be doing with all of these battleground states.

    “It’s nothing against the VP. I think she’s doing what she can to help sway Black voters,” the strategist added. “I just think the odds are stacked against us.”

    Harris’s approval rating also remains underwater overall among the electorate.

    A Politico/Morning Consult survey released this week showed the vice president has an approval rating of 42 percent. And she has an overall perception problem with voters regarding whether she would be a formidable leader for the Democratic Party; the same poll showed that 42 percent of voters described her as a strong leader, and 57 percent of those surveyed said they thought Harris could win a presidential election.

    But the same survey showed she is making progress with Black voters in particular. She has a 67 percent favorability rating among that demographic, underscoring an uptick for her, after routinely trailing Biden with Black voters when the two were in the 2020 Democratic primary race, and even after he selected her as his nominee. Biden has an approval rating of 63 percent with Black voters.

    In a memo this week, Dory MacMillan, the Biden campaign’s North Carolina communications director, said Democrats in the state “have hit the ground running earlier than ever” and are building a campaign “that will leave no votes on the table.”

    MacMillan said while the Biden campaign has opened field offices throughout the state, Trump “has zero offices or dedicated campaign staff in North Carolina.”

    Harris, Biden aides note, was in the state in April to open the first field office in Charlotte. She has also appeared on Black media in the state, including Charlotte’s Power 98 FM.

    During two visits in March, Harris helped launch Students for Biden-Harris and announced investments in strengthening small businesses on Black Wall Street in Durham. She also delivered remarks in Raleigh with Biden on the administration’s work to lower health care costs.

    Political observers say the investments made by the Biden campaign — including the Harris visits — could pay off in a state that’s supposed to be won on the margins.

    “There are very few persuadable voters, so that means the vast bulk is all about who shows up,” said Michael Bitzer, the chair of the department of politics at Catawba College in North Carolina.

    “And what we’ve seen in the past couple of election cycles is Black turnout is below the state averages, so anytime there is recognition — courting, if you will — of a constituency who is a core component of your coalition, it pays to be here.”

    Copyright 2024 Nexstar Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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