Kamala Harris Rallies Democrats, Pumps Up Biden and Warns of Trump
On the final day before South Carolina’s primary election officially kicks off the Democratic presidential nominating contest, Vice President Kamala Harris urged supporters not to ignore a contest that is widely expected to be uncompetitive but where she and President Biden are hoping for a morale-lifting rout.
“South Carolina, you are the first primary in the nation, and President Biden and I are counting on you,” Ms. Harris told a crowd on Friday at South Carolina State University in Orangeburg. “Are you ready to make your voices heard? Do we believe in freedom? Do we believe in democracy? Do we believe in opportunity for all, and are we ready to fight for it?”
The rally was Ms. Harris’s ninth trip to South Carolina as vice president and was already her third of the year, an indication of the importance she and Mr. Biden’s campaign have placed on a dominant performance to begin their party’s presidential nominating season.
Standing before two banners bearing the slogan “First in the Nation” — with the word “First” underlined — Ms. Harris highlighted the Biden administration’s achievements, including expanding high-speed internet access, increasing federal funding for historically Black colleges and universities, and reducing prescription drug costs.
She also warned supporters about what former President Donald J. Trump could do with another White House term.
“For years, the former president has stoked the fires of hate and bigotry and racism and xenophobia for his own power and political gain,” she said. “The former president has told us who he is, and it is on us, then, to recognize the profound threat he poses to our democracy and to our freedoms.”
The Biden campaign has in recent weeks mounted an intensive campaign to generate support in the Democratic primary race in South Carolina. The campaign’s surrogates have hit the state’s rural counties, an effort that campaign officials and local allies hope will result in strong turnout on Saturday that they can use as an argument that Mr. Biden remains popular with the party’s base.
“For far too long, we’ve been relegated to the back of the bus,” Jaime Harrison, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee and a South Carolinian himself, told the crowd at Ms. Harris’s event. “Now we’re driving the damn bus. I want you to understand what your power is.”
The Biden campaign hired a cadre of senior advisers in the state — which is reliably Republican and not expected to be a general-election battleground — before it did so in Arizona and Pennsylvania, which are certain to be hotly contested through the fall.
Mr. Biden’s campaign spent more than $172,000 on television advertising in South Carolina, according to AdImpact, a media tracking firm. A supportive super PAC, Unite the Country, invested another $63,000.
Before the rally, Ms. Harris met with a group of local faith leaders at a gathering that was closed to the news media. The Rev. Nelson B. Rivers III, a pastor from North Charleston, S.C., who led the session, said Ms. Harris had faced questions about health care, student debt and gun violence.
“A lot of the questions were about the environment in America today, the social environment,” Mr. Rivers said. “She didn’t duck any questions. She answered them all straightforward.”