COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Vice President Kamala Harris flew to South Carolina on Friday to file paperwork putting President Joe Biden on the 2024 presidential ballot of the state, which will lead off the Democratic presidential primary thanks to a White House-led schedule overhaul meant to better empower Black voters.
Harris was joined in the state capital by South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, one of the leading Black voices in Congress. Then-candidate Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign was floundering after big losses in Iowa and New Hampshire, but rebounded with a decisive South Carolina win that was solidified by Clyburn’s late endorsement.
That 2020 boost gave Biden enough momentum to romp through Super Tuesday, clinch his party’s primary and later the White House. Since announcing his reelection bid in April, Biden has made far more frequent official visits to Pennsylvania — a key battleground in the general election — than states that will decide Democrats’ 2024 primary.
But Harris’ visit follows the vice president spending recent months traveling the country, including a college tour that has taken her to leading Historically Black Colleges and Universities. She’s looking to build excitement among young people and voters of color at a time when polls show that even a majority of Democrats, believe Biden is too old to handle the rigors of a second term.
“It was South Carolina that created the path to the White House for Joe Biden and me,” Harris said.
“I’m here to say thank you,” she said. “Let’s do it again.”
Iowa’s 2020 caucus was marred by technical glitches, and Biden asked last year that the Democratic National Party replace it in the leadoff spot with South Carolina. He said Black and other minority voters need to play a larger, earlier role in determining the Democratic presidential nominee.
The DNC approved a new 2024 calendar where South Carolina’s primary will on Feb. 3 will be followed three days later by Nevada. The schedule also moves Michigan into the group of early states voting before Super Tuesday on March 5, when most of the rest of the country holds primaries.
DNC chair Jaime Harrison joined Clyburn at the airport for Harris’ arrival in Columbia.
“The Biden-Harris coalition will be out in full force in South Carolina and will be how we defeat MAGA extremism once again in 2024,” Biden reelection campaign spokesman Michael Tyler said in a statement, referring to former President Donald Trump, who has built a commanding early lead in next year’s Republican presidential primary, and his ”Make American Great Again” slogan.
Harris spoke in a crowded room at state party headquarters, flanked by cheering supporters holding Biden-Harris and South Carolina Democratic Party signs. Asked to predict how Biden would do in February’s primary, Harris responded, “We’re going to win.”
Referring to this week’s election s, when Democrats won in key races across the country, Harris said, “We are here with the wind at our back, because, did anyone notice what happened on Tuesday?”
She turned the Biden campaign papers over to Christale Spain, chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party who said, “I am proud of the role that the Palmetto State played in ensuring that they would go on to win the White House, and I am completely honored to accept their filing today”
Clyburn held up a brochure of the Biden administration’s accomplishments and highlighted efforts to reduce student loan debt around the country — efforts that have been limited by court challenges. He told the crowd of the vice president, “For her to come back here today and be a part of this says a whole lot.”
“This is really, really an incredible demonstration of what South Carolina is all about,” Clyburn said. Later, he and Harris stopped by the Vietnam War Memorial in downtown Columbia to help mark Veterans Day.
Republicans are leading off their 2024 primary with the Iowa caucus on Jan. 15, and the state’s Democrats will caucus then, too, but not release the presidential results immediately to comply with party rules. New Hampshire, however, has rejected the new calendar and is planning to hold its primary in January, arguing that it has held the nation’s first primary for more than a century, a rule that Iowa was able to circumvent only because it had a caucus.
Biden won’t appear on the New Hampshire ballot and isn’t planning to campaign there, though some of the state’s top Democrats are organizing a write-in campaign backing his reelection bid. Minnesota Rep. Dean Phillips, the only elected Democrat to challenge Biden in 2024, has already filed to appear on both the New Hampshire and South Carolina ballots.
Weissert reported from Washington.