Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisFirst black female senator defends Biden from Harris: ‘For her to take that tack is sad’ The Hill’s Morning Report – Trump touts handshake with Kim, tariff freeze with Xi Democratic debates kick off Iowa summer sprint MORE (D-Calif.) moved past former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenFirst black female senator defends Biden from Harris: ‘For her to take that tack is sad’ Advice for Biden on busing The Hill’s Morning Report – Trump touts handshake with Kim, tariff freeze with Xi MORE in the early race for 2020 endorsements from Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) members after her strong performance in the first primary debate earned her the support of two new lawmakers.
CBC endorsements, a vital commodity in a Democratic primary, have taken on special significance this presidential cycle, as President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe billionaire exemption Former Bolton aide pushes back on report of nuclear freeze with North Korea US breaks record for longest economic expansion MORE has injected issues of race into the election in unprecedented fashion and as a crowded Democratic field fights to nail down the support of black voters, who will be crucial in early primary states such as South Carolina.
Most lawmakers in the 55-member CBC have opted to stay on the sidelines in the early stages of the primary.
But Harris, herself a member of the group, unveiled two new CBC endorsements Monday, when Reps. Bobby RushBobby Lee RushHarris picks up endorsements of 2 Congressional Black Caucus members Chicago reopens dozens of cold cases with aid of computer algorithm House Dems propose billions in extra funding for environmental programs that Trump sought to cut MORE (D-Ill.) and Frederica WilsonFrederica Patricia WilsonHarris picks up endorsements of 2 Congressional Black Caucus members House hearing marks historic moment for slavery reparations debate Overnight Defense: Iran worries dominate foreign policy talk | Pentagon reportedly to send WH plans for 10K troops in Mideast | Democrats warn Trump may push through Saudi arms sale | Lawmakers blast new Pentagon policy on sharing info MORE (D-Fla.) rallied to her side. The additions bring Harris’s CBC endorsements to a total of six, compared to Biden’s five.
Both lawmakers alluded to Harris’s debate showing in praising her presidential chops.
“Before the debate, Kamala Harris’s viability as a candidate had been extremely underestimated, in part because voters are still getting to know her,” Wilson told The Hill.
Wilson also praised Harris for the manner in which she challenged Biden when she directly confronted the former Delaware senator over his opposition to federal efforts to bus students across school districts in the 1970s.
In a poignant moment, Harris said that she had been one of the children to benefit from the busing policies intended to racially integrate schools.
“At last week’s debate, the rest of the world saw the formidable candidate that I’ve always known her to be. In her handling of Vice President Biden, she was respectful but commanding, and her recollection of being bused to school as a child also made her extremely relatable,” Wilson said. “I was glad that Sen. Harris challenged the former vice president on busing because that whole saga was a cathartic period in the history of separate but equal schools.”
Wilson said that she had gotten to know Harris during CBC meetings, adding that the California senator “reminded me of a female Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaFront-runner Biden faces skepticism in Iowa Meghan McCain blasts Trump Jr. for retweeting ‘disgusting’ and ‘racist’ post about Kamala Harris 2020 Democratic candidates pan Trump’s North Korea visit MORE.”
Rush also cited Harris’s debate skills in his endorsement.
“Last week, 18 million Americans got to see what I have known about Kamala for some time. She is a once-in-a-lifetime leader. She exemplifies what global leadership is all about,” Rush said in a statement released by the Harris campaign, referring to the number of viewers who tuned in to the debates.
Harris is now trying to build momentum after her debate performance last week, with multiple recent polls showing a spike in support among Democratic primary voters.
A new Hill-HarrisX poll released Monday found Harris surging past Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenMedicare for All won’t deliver what Democrats promise The Hill’s Morning Report – Trump touts handshake with Kim, tariff freeze with Xi Democratic debates kick off Iowa summer sprint MORE (D-Mass.) to rank third in the Democratic field behind Biden and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersMedicare for All won’t deliver what Democrats promise Democratic debates kick off Iowa summer sprint Front-runner Biden faces skepticism in Iowa MORE (I-Vt.) — a 6-point jump from an identical poll two weeks ago.
The new CBC endorsements mark an early shift in what is sure to be a long and hard-fought race among the presidential hopefuls for the support of prominent black figures on and off Capitol Hill.
Biden had taken the early lead in that contest, securing the backing of Rep. Cedric RichmondCedric Levon RichmondThe Hill’s Morning Report – Warren cements front-runner status in first Dem debate Democrats crush GOP to win annual baseball game Democrats already jockeying for House leadership posts MORE (D-La.), who is now a national co-chairman of his campaign, on top of four other CBC members.
But no CBC members have endorsed Biden since last week’s debate; the most recent was Rep. Al LawsonAlfred (Al) James LawsonFlorida Republican who openly follows ‘QAnon’ conspiracy theory running for Congress Booker, Biden lead in 2020 endorsements GOP-controlled Senate breaks with Trump on Saudi vote MORE (D-Fla.) on May 30, while Reps. A. Donald McEachinAston (Donale) Donald McEachinVirginia lawmakers respond to shooting: ‘My heart breaks for … our entire commonwealth’ Overnight Energy: Trump moves forward with rule on California drilling | House panel advances bill that resumes participation in Paris climate fund | Perry pressed on ‘environmental justice’ | 2020 Dem proposes climate corps Perry, asked about environmental justice, talks about electricity prices MORE (D-Va.), Dwight EvansDwight (Dewey) Michael EvansBooker, Biden lead in 2020 endorsements Ten Dem lawmakers added to House Ways and Means Committee Here are the lawmakers who will forfeit their salaries during the shutdown MORE (D-Pa.) and Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.) announced their support weeks earlier.
And Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerFront-runner Biden faces skepticism in Iowa Harris picks up endorsements of 2 Congressional Black Caucus members Booker: Biden causing ‘frustration’ and ‘pain’ with his words MORE (D-N.J.), the only other top-tier African American presidential candidate in the field, has just two CBC endorsements. But both of those lawmakers hail from his New Jersey delegation: Reps. Donald Payne Jr.Donald Milford Payne Jr.Booker, Biden lead in 2020 endorsements New Jersey Dems tell Pentagon not to use military funds for border wall Inside the Trump-Congress Christmas meltdown MORE (D) and Bonnie Watson ColemanBonnie Watson ColemanOvernight Energy: Interior chief says climate response falls on Congress | Bernhardt insists officials will complete offshore drilling plans | Judge rules EPA must enforce Obama landfill pollution rules Trump Interior chief says climate change response falls on Congress Interior chief says offshore drilling plan not ‘indefinitely sidelined’ MORE (D).
Some CBC members warned that Biden came up short in his exchange on busing with Harris at last week’s debate.
Rep. Gregory MeeksGregory Weldon MeeksExport-Import Bank deal in peril amid Democratic backlash Top Finance Democrat offers bill to end tax breaks for private prison companies Criticism punctuates Nadler’s leadership of Trump probe MORE (D-N.Y.) told “CNN Newsroom” that the attacks on Biden from Harris over busing were “absolutely” fair, noting that he, like Harris, was bused in an effort to integrate schools.
“He has to say that I have evolved, as many people on other issues, that I now understand that, and how hurtful and harmful it was,” Meeks, who has not endorsed anyone, said of Biden. “It is very hurtful to African Americans, what took place. It’s deep and systemic and still in this society.”
After the debate, Biden sought to clarify his position on busing, saying he believed the issue should have been decided at the local level and that courts, rather than the Education Department, should set the rules.
Before the exchange with Harris, Biden had already come under fire for remarks at a fundraiser in which he offered two segregationist senators as examples of people he could work with despite their disagreements.
Biden’s comments were defended by some lawmakers, including civil rights veteran Rep. John LewisJohn LewisJuan Williams: Race-baiting Trump pushes everyone toward extremes Richmond renames street after tennis trailblazer Arthur Ashe Sanders: Biden ‘owes the country an apology’ on ‘civility’ remarks MORE (D-Ga.), who said he did not find the comments to be offensive.
But Rush told Politico last month that Biden’s remarks about the senators were “wholly out of touch and woefully ignorant of the nuances of the black American experience.”
Three CBC members endorsed Harris in the days following Biden’s remarks invoking the segregationist senators: Reps. Al GreenAlexander (Al) N. GreenButtigieg defends experience: ‘Anybody of any age can do a good job’ Palmer’s Paris agreement bashing lacks policy basis Pavlich: Nadler’s intimidation tactics backfire MORE (D-Texas), Alcee HastingsAlcee (Judge) Lamar HastingsNFL players: Corporal punishment in schools is unacceptable Booker, Biden lead in 2020 endorsements Some Senate Dems see Ocasio-Cortez as weak spokeswoman for party MORE (D-Fla.) and Wm. Lacy ClayWilliam (Lacy) Lacy ClayCongress needs to continue fighting the opioid epidemic Criticism punctuates Nadler’s leadership of Trump probe FBI database stokes worries over facial recognition tech MORE (D-Mo.), though none cited the controversy in the timing of their endorsements.
The first CBC member to endorse Harris, Rep. Barbara LeeBarbara Jean LeeBipartisan House duo unveils amendment to block Iran strike without Congress’s approval The Trump administration’s plan to change the poverty line would hurt communities who need help the most GOP rep: Trump needs to retaliate against Iran to deter other hostile nations MORE (D-Calif.), did so back in February.
The early split among CBC members is reminiscent of the political dynamics surrounding the 2008 Democratic primary.
Then, the front-runner was Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGender politics and the 2020 Democratic primary: A test case in lessons learned? The Hill’s Morning Report – Trump touts handshake with Kim, tariff freeze with Xi Democratic debates kick off Iowa summer sprint MORE, a white candidate with a national brand, as Biden is today.
A number of CBC members, long affiliated with the Clinton dynasty, flocked to her side even as Barack Obama was making strides in what would eventually lead to his history-making election as the country’s first African American president.
But the changing tides over the course of that hard-fought contest led to highly unusual cases of lawmakers shifting allegiances midstream.
One prominent example was Lewis, who endorsed Obama in February 2008 after siding with Clinton months earlier. Rep. David ScottDavid Albert ScottOn The Money: Shutdown Day 25 | Dems reject White House invite for talks | Leaders nix recess with no deal | McConnell blocks second House Dem funding bill | IRS workers called back for tax-filing season | Senate bucks Trump on Russia sanctions Democrats turn down White House invitation for shutdown talks Tennessee high court rules man who placed secret cam in 13-year-old’s bedroom not guilty of child porn MORE (D-Ga.) also switched his endorsement after Obama won 80 percent of the primary vote in his district.
Neither Lewis nor Scott has made an endorsement so far this year, and no lawmakers have switched endorsements at this point.
And there’s still a chance that Biden could regain ground from the CBC.
“Clearly the first round has gone to Kamala Harris,” Meeks said. “The second round is going to become tremendously important.”