For the seasoned Democrat campaigning in South Carolina, Hannibal’s Kitchen is a must-stop.
As Biden surrogates tried to raise excitement for Saturday’s primary, it made sense for them to stop by a propaganda institution where photos of liberal and black celebrities like Pharrell Williams, Angela Bassett, Danny Glover, and Hillary Clinton are on full display.
The patrons, however, were only mildly responsive to Austin Davis, Pennsylvania’s first Black lieutenant governor’s request to send Joe Biden and Kamala Harris back to the White House.
A group of about 16 white Danish political tourists, dining on platters of crab rice and smothered turkey wings, listened inquisitively but stayed focused on their meal. The only hoots came from local Democratic operatives in attendance.
Officials with the party spent the closing days crisscrossing the state engaging Black voters. But turnout at some of these events was sparse, with many of them attended by party officials. Of the Black voters outside of party-backed events, few seem excited or even aware of the coming election. It’s not just because they’re unenthused about Biden, it’s that they don’t see the primary as much of a contest at all.
Asked if he expects the county to show up the same way as in 2020 when roughly 63,000 voters cast ballots in a competitive primary that helped Biden win the nomination, Skardon replied that he does not expect it to show up the same way as it did then.
“As excited as we are to go vote,” he adds, “the argument about why it’s so important is kind of a political process argument [and] it’s always hard to get people to vote on process arguments.”
Clay Middleton, a senior adviser to the Biden reelection campaign based in Charleston, admits there is more pressure on party officials to deliver votes than perhaps enthusiasm for voters to show up at the polls.
“The average person is not in tune because … there’s not the urgency or crisis like there was the last time,” Middleton tells POLITICO. “So now it’s about those who have benefited and are feeling the results of this administration to show [their] appreciation by voting.”
When it comes to the presidential primary, the party is clearly trying to inform voters. South Carolina Democrats have explored just about any lever to pull to motivate the electorate, particularly voters of color.
Among the pitches they’ve been forced to address is whether Democrats should forgo voting in the Democratic primary at all, and instead cast their ballots in the Republican primary that is taking place weeks later.
There is a belief if Democrats cast ballots in the GOP primary to help former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, it could help thwart former President Donald Trump from winning the state. But state law prohibits voters from participating in both primaries.
Jay Parmley, the South Carolina Democrats executive director, is among those trying to convince Democrats this is a bad idea.
“That is stupid,” Parmley said of the strategy. “We’re not stopping Donald Trump, the Republicans aren’t stopping Donald Trump,” he said. “Democrats who think they’re going to mess around in a Republican primary, makes no sense.”
Politico reported that some are leaning toward Trump after turning completely against Biden during his presidency, including Joshua Holmes and Keasha Pate, who said their 2016 votes were for Hillary Clinton and their 2020 votes for Biden.