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Inside a quiet effort to drive Black voters from Biden: From the Politics Desk

By 37ci3 Feb21,2024



This is the digital version From the policy desk, a daily newsletter covering the biggest stories in politics. Today’s top story is from Ben Kamisar, plus analysis from Steve Kornacki.


President Joe Biden may face a re-election challenge in 2024. An experimental covert campaign during South Carolina’s Democratic primary underscores how Republican players will try to exploit Biden’s weaknesses.

A conservative group funded by anonymous donors mailed to nearly 75,000 Democratic primary voters in heavily black South Carolina ahead of the Feb. 3 primary there, criticizing the Biden administration’s attempt to ban menthol cigarettes. Black smokers are more likely to use menthol cigarettes, According to a study cited by the FDAand there is a potential ban civil rights groups were divided.


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Biden won the South Carolina primary with 96% support — but the bigger question is whether the mailer, a copy of which was obtained by NBC News, encouraged shoppers to stay home instead of going out. That kind of result, or prompting voters to consider a third-party option, could have a bigger impact in the fall in a close swing state.

A source familiar with the strategy behind the group, Building America’s Future, told NBC News that the nonprofit plans to reinvest in a similar strategy later this year as it analyzes how mailers influenced recipient votes in the South Carolina primary.

The group plans to spend more than $1 million on efforts aimed at swaying key Democratic voters away from Biden in the general election, primarily in battleground states. He plans to target predominantly black voters in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Georgia and Wisconsin with a mix of television, digital, radio and direct mail. But the group can also target young voters during the golf WM Phoenix Open Focusing on concerns about potential bans on nicotine pouches like Zyn this month.

Read the full story here →


Nikki Haley’s home disadvantage? Republican voters

Analysis by Steve Kornacki

Solving Haley’s campaign’s math problem won’t be so easy as the key calendar turns this Saturday to Haley’s home state of South Carolina.

Polling puts him well behind Donald Trump in the state, with no sign of him making any new inroads with key Republican voters. That means Haley’s hopes for a landslide victory — presumably to retain any credibility as a candidate — will hinge on her ability to attract and secure the support of non-Republicans at unprecedented levels in a South Carolina primary.

To put his problem into perspective, look at the distribution of South Carolina’s GOP primary electorates this century (and note that the state does not register voters by party, meaning anyone can enter the GOP race, and the numbers below reflect that. In past exit polls, voters chose their partisanship how they determined their loyalty):

As you can see, the share of self-identified Republicans has changed from 60% to 80%. By comparison, self-identified Republicans made up only 50% of voters in the New Hampshire Democratic primary last month. So barring an unexpected surge with those voters, Haley will need that number to fall to an all-time low on Saturday, which would diminish the clout of a voting bloc that seems quite hostile to her.

That would require a corresponding increase in the share of independents and Democrats who switch to support him. As the chart above shows, their overall share of South Carolina GOP primaries typically falls in the 20-30% range. One exception came in 2000, when John McCain ran against George W. Bush and relied on a coalition that—like Haley—heavily leaned on non-Republican support. But it still wasn’t enough for McCain, who lost the state to Bush by 11 points thanks to Bush’s strong support among key Republicans:

And since 2000, there has never been a greater divide between Republicans and non-Republicans in terms of candidate support:

Note that McCain is the only candidate to win South Carolina, despite placing himself second among Republicans in his 2008 nomination. But his deficit among those voters was only one point, allowing McCain to carry his strong independent support to a statewide victory.

But with the large gaps Haley faces among Republican voters, she looks more like McCain in 2000 than in 2008. And to do what McCain failed to do in 2000 and actually carry the state, Haley must somehow widen the share of non-Republicans while getting more of them. Talk about a tall order.

Read the full story here →

🗞️ The best stories of the day

  • ❌ Punished: President Joe Biden’s administration is imposing new, significant sanctions on Russia following the death of opposition leader Alexei Navalny. More →
  • 💸 Contains: Biden’s campaign and allied Democratic groups say they have invested $130 million through January as they prepare for an extremely expensive general election. More →
  • ❓ On second thought: Dozens of prominent Republican candidates ran in the last round, making false claims about the 2020 election. But while many of them are running for re-election, some are toning down fake election talk. More →
  • ☑️ Boo and vote : The Democratic mayor of Dearborn, Michigan, which has a significant share of residents of Middle Eastern descent, wrote an op-ed criticizing Biden and said he would vote “no threat” in the Michigan primary rather than support the president. More →
  • 🍔 Senate battle sparks burger war: Republican Eric Hovde just jumped into the Wisconsin Senate race, giving the GOP a well-funded choice against Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin. Democrats cheered him, painting him as a carpetbagger from California and comparing the election to a battle between two burger chains. Wisconsin’s favorite Culver’s Compared to California-based In-N-Out. More →

For now, that’s it from The Politics Desk. If you have feedback – like it or not – send us an email politicsnewsletter@nbcuni.com.

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