Biden heading south for first campaign trip to South Carolina

By Bo Erickson

/ CBS News

Biden and Sanders fight for Trump voters

COLUMBIA, South Carolina — Over the past week, former Vice President Joe Biden launched his third bid for the presidency in Pennsylvania and crisscrossed Iowa. He is now hoping to strengthen his connections to the South Carolina electorate.

Biden will hold a campaign rally Saturday in Columbia, the Palmetto State's capital and home to the University of South Carolina. South Carolina is one of the early primary battles for Democrats, and success in the state is seen as a formidable boost due to a large and energized base of black voters.

During the 2018 midterms, Biden stumped for other Democratic candidates across the state, boosting his popularity.

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"I think he enjoys favorability, likeability, and favorability through the party," Antjuan Seawright, a Democratic strategist based in South Carolina and a CBSN contributor said. "It was pretty evident in the 2018 midterms that he was one of the most — if not the most — requested surrogates for Democrats up and down the ballot, across the country."

After the rally, the former vice president will go to a "finance event" organized by State Sen. Richard "Dick" Harpootlian, who told CBS News the gathering will be a "well-appointed, well-attended event."

Harpootlian said Biden's pragmatism makes him the right candidate for next year's election.

"We have issues like Medicare for All and the Green [New] Deal and they are great ideas and I think Joe Biden will support the general sense of all of these things," Harpootlian told CBS News. "However, somebody is going to have to beat Donald Trump to make these things happen."

"We have a president who looks straight to the camera and lies and makes things up," Harpootlian added. "So you need somebody who is adept at responding to that. Nail him down."

Harpootlian said he has already raised "a bunch" of money for Biden but would not cite a specific amount.

Biden's connections to South Carolina go back years and are bipartisan, as seen with his eulogy for long-time Democratic South Carolina Sen. Ernest F. "Fritz" Hollings in April and his eulogy for Republican Sen. Strom Thurmond in 2003.

Biden is expected to build on Saturday on his middle-class message, which he delivered to Pittsburgh and Iowa voters earlier this week. The former vice president has thrown his support behind a national $15 hourly minimum wage and greater healthcare coverage by presenting options for Americans to opt into a "public option" health plan through either Medicare or Medicaid.

According to a jobs report released Friday, the United States has an unemployment rate of 3.6 percent, the lowest in 49 years.

This story will be updated as the rally on Saturday gets underway.

First published on May 4, 2019 / 1:48 PM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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