2020 Candidates Try To Woo Black Voters At NAACP Conference In Detroit

Jul 25, 2019

The NAACP wrapped up its 110th national convention Wednesday with a presidential forum. Nine Democrats and one Republican took the stage to give targeted versions of their stump speeches making their case to the voters. 

(Let to right) Journalist April Ryan interviews California Sen. & 2020 presidential candidate Kamala Harris during NAACP convention in Detroit in July 2019.
Credit YouTube/NAACP

WKAR's Abigail Censky was at the forum, she debriefed WKAR'S All Things Considered Host Karel Vega on the big takeaways from the event. 

Interview Highlights


"And one major through line of the entire thing for most of the candidates were President Donald Trump's racist tweets from last week that targeted for Congress, women of color. Many candidates brought that up on stage. And this is a little bit of what Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders opened with when he talked to the press backstage. 'It is certainly a tragedy and an embarrassment for our country, that we have a president who is a racist and a bigot. And what Trump's strategy is, is to try to divide the American people up based on the color of their skin or where they were born or their religion, because he thinks if you can divide the American people up and get one group to hate another group that he can win reelection. Well, I disagree with him. I don't think that's going to happen.'"

One of the themes that surfaced during many candidate appeals was the division, they allege, President Donald Trump has sowed. Several candidates referenced Trump's racist tweets attacking four U.S. Congresswomen. Backstage, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders said that believes it is part of the president's re-election strategy to divide Americans to create a path for his re-election. 


"There was an elephant in the room and that elephant was Vice President Joe Biden. He is polling highest with voters in general but also specifically potential black primary voters. That did drop eight percentage points after the first debate when Senator Kamala Harris confronted him for part of his record; saying that he was bragging about making bipartisan deals with senators who were known segregationists. And she was also confronting him for his record on busing policies to integrate schools, as well as his role in the 1994 crime bill. Basically, other senators and other candidates are hoping that as Biden's record is scrutinized, some of that support will begin to fall off."

Vice President and 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden addresses NAACP convention in Detroit in July 2019.
Credit YouTube/NAACP

Biden continues to enjoy high popularity with potential black primary voters despite increased scrutiny over his record on federal busing polices and his sponsorship of the 1994 crime bill


"So, this kind of continued as the candidates left, both senator Booker and Vice President Joe Biden have released statements kind of sparring with each other there in a spat over both of their records.  And that's that kind of continued on into the night, after a fundraiser outside of Detroit one of the people said to the vice president that they'd like him to be a little tougher in the second democratic debate next week. And he said to reporters, he's not going to be as polite this time. And he also said, ‘If they want to argue about the past, I can do that. I got a past I'm proud of they got a past that's not quite so good.’”

New Jersey Sen. & presidential candidate Cory Booker speaks with April Ryan at NAACP convention in Detroit.
Credit YouTube/NAACP

Following his time on stage, Senator Cory Booker spoke to reporters backstage and brought up Biden's legacy, criticizing the former Vice President. Booker's nascent criticism comes weeks after Harris’ debate confrontation but harbors the same intentions—attempting to chip away at Biden's popularity with black voters. Biden and Booker have released dueling statements critiquing the other's history. Senator Booker said he found it 'troubling' that Biden had only begun to apologize and confront his voting record only since he's become a presidential hopeful again.

Maxim Jenkins Contributed to this reporting

Follow Abigail on Twitter: @AbigailCensky