Politics

James Clyburn calls on Joe Biden to start get-out-the-vote efforts now and hire more African Americans

Key Points
  • Rep. James Clyburn has been credited for saving Joe Biden's presidential campaign ahead of South Carolina's primary. Now he is working to make sure Biden wins this fall.
  • Clyburn, in an interview with CNBC, called on the Biden campaign to start now with its efforts to maximize black voter turnout in November – and to make sure it has African American aides, staffers and volunteers. 
  • "I think the focus on turnout has to start now," Clyburn said. "We have to get people involved in this campaign who know where and how to turn voters out."
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden shakes hands with U.S. Rep. and House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) as Clyburn announces his endorsement for Biden at Trident Technical College February 26, 2020 in North Charleston, South Carolina.
Drew Angerer | Getty Images

Rep. James Clyburn has been credited for saving Joe Biden's presidential campaign ahead of South Carolina's primary. Now he is working to make sure Biden wins this fall.

Clyburn, in an interview with CNBC on Friday, called on the Biden campaign to start now with its efforts to maximize black voter turnout in November – and to make sure it has the African American aides, staffers and volunteers to do it. 

"I think the focus on turnout has to start now," Clyburn said. "We have to get people involved in this campaign who know where and how to turn voters out."

To be sure, connecting with voters is difficult as the nation contends with the coronavirus and social distancing guidelines intended to limit its spread. Democrats and Republicans have been fighting over whether to enhance vote-by-mail options and limit voters' exposure to public polling places. Democrats have called for more mail-in ballots. President Donald Trump, on the other hand, has weighed in against the method, saying, without evidence, that it can lead to voter fraud – and that it would hurt Republicans. 

Regardless of how people cast their votes this fall, Clyburn believes that the Biden campaign needs to start encouraging turnout now, particularly among black voters, who came through in a big way for Biden during the Feb. 29 South Carolina primary. Biden dominated that contest, a result many credited to the endorsement from Clyburn, an African American, receiving 61% of the black vote in the state, according to an NBC News exit poll. 

Clyburn said the campaign should immediately start making its case to nonwhite voters to ensure they don't stay home this November, however. 

He explained how his wife, Emily, who recently passed away, would react when a young white volunteer would knock on their door to canvass, instead of someone from their community. 

"She would get angry when she opened the door and an 18- to 20-year-old nonblack person asked if Emily is here," he said. 

"I know that if we want to turn out African American voters you need to have people that they know," he added. "That's why you got to hire people in these communities if you want them to turnout to vote."

Clyburn said he has not spoken to the apparent Democratic nominee for president about this and has yet to suggest any hires to his team. Biden didn't look back after he won in South Carolina and, days later, romped on Super Tuesday. Biden's sole remaining primary adversary, Sen. Bernie Sanders, dropped out last week and endorsed Biden earlier this week.

Clyburn pointed to the efforts former President Bill Clinton and his campaign made in the 1990s to connecting with African American voters and how it boosted him to two terms. 

Clnton's wife, however, did not have as much success appealing to black voters, and it showed when she took on Trump in the 2016 election. 

A report by the Pew Research Center shows that in 2016 the black voter turnout was down for the first time in two decades.It fell to just over 59% after a record 66.6% turnout in 2012, when President Barack Obama defeated Republican rival Mitt Romney. 

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