Biden and Harris make a rare joint campaign appearance to shore up Black voters’ support

PHILADELPHIA — President Joe Biden signaled the start of a more aggressive campaign against Donald Trump as the former president’s criminal trial nears an end, telling voters here the threat he could pose in another term is even greater than the damage he did in his first.

During a rare joint campaign appearance with Vice President Kamala Harris, the president said his predecessor was running a campaign of lies, especially to Black voters, by “trying to make the country forget just how dark and unsettling things were when he was president.” 

“Donald Trump is pandering and peddling lies and stereotypes for your votes so he can win for himself, not for you. Well, Donald Trump, I have a message for you. Not in our house. And not in our watch,” Biden said.

Biden and Harris, joined by Maryland Gov. Wes Moore and members of the Congressional Black Caucus, were set to make multiple stops in Philadelphia Wednesday to kick off “Black Voters for Biden-Harris,” part of a new push to counter Trump’s efforts to make inroads among the voters who helped power Biden to the nomination and then the White House four years ago.

“Joe Biden’s approval rating is underwater in Pennsylvania, and he knows it. Despite Biden and Harris’s best attempts to gaslight Keystone State voters, they know exactly who is to blame for soaring costs, a spiraling border crisis, and staggering crime rates across the country,” Rachel Lee, a spokesperson for the Republican National Committee, said in a statement.

Biden’s campaign has long argued that it sees Black voters differently from how past Democratic campaigns have — a targeted voter group whose support is courted from start to finish, rather than a reliable turnout engine that just needs to be revved up in the fall. On Wednesday, it launches Black Voters for Biden at the end of a month that has been characterized some of the most sustained voter outreach of the campaign to date.

But in his remarks at a predominantly Black school, Biden gave voice to a major concern his campaign and supporters have identified as they try to rebuild that support, acknowledging early in his remarks that “there’s a lot of misinformation out there.” He spent roughly eight minutes laying out what he saw as major accomplishments benefitting minority voters, before spending an equal amount of time rebutting some of Trump’s most frequent campaign claims.

Harris, too, blasted Trump for seeking to undercut the Affordable Care Act, appointing justices who overturned Roe vs. Wade and warned that in a second term he “would go even further.”

“Our president does not only know how to fight, he knows how to win,” Harris said. “We beat Donald Trump once, and we’re gonna beat him again.”

Wednesday’s rally was one of the larger events of the campaign so far but still drew smaller crowds than Trump has even in heavily Democratic areas, like a rally last week in the South Bronx. It doubled as a show of force on the trail as a New York jury prepares to hand down a verdict in Trump’s hush money trial. 

Support from Black voters in Philadelphia is a critical element of the Biden strategy to again carry Pennsylvania, which put Biden over the 270 electoral vote threshold four years ago. Biden won 81% of the vote in Philadelphia four years ago, though his margin of victory over Trump narrowed slightly compared to four years earlier. 

Isaiah Thomas, a City Council member who launched a local initiative known as “Black Men Vote” with fellow council members to encourage voting, said he has seen some resistance in the community as he targets younger Black men. He said misinformation — and not just online — has been a particular challenge.  

“Every time I go on social media, I’m trying to watch a game at night, I try to listen to some music or some YouTube or something like that, it’s everywhere. I’m always getting bombarded with how bad Biden is,” he said.  

Thomas said it’s too early to say whether the initial concerns raise alarm for November, but he encouraged the Biden team to do more to get its message out. 

“It’s good that the polling numbers are out there, because it puts us on alert,” he said. 

The Rev. Mark Tyler, the pastor at Philadelphia’s Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, said he thinks that as the summer begins and people see more of Trump, Biden’s standing will improve.

“Black voters in particular need to remember the Donald Trump of 2016 to 2020 and the way that he conducted himself in the way of caring for our issues or ignoring our issues,” he said. 

The Biden campaign is relying on what campaign officials refer to as “trusted messengers” like Moore to help carry the campaign’s message to more skeptical voters who may not want to hear from either of the major party nominees. After the rally, Biden visited a Black-owned small business to try and tap into another source of potential local validators.

The campaign says Wednesday’s launch of Black Voters for Biden will be followed by events across the country, with surrogates visiting barber shops, attending block parties and visiting churches through the weekend.