By TOM FOREMAN Jr. | AP
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — For James Felder, the question of which presidential candidate to support in the South Carolina primary has never been terribly complicated. The 80-year-old civil rights activist has always backed Joe Biden, appreciative of the eight years he spent as the No. 2 to the first black president.
But when Felder opened a recent forum at historically black Benedict College to questions, students in the room weren’t so convinced.
J’Kobe Kelley-Mills, a junior English major, said he was torn between Biden and Bernie Sanders, the progressive Vermont senator who is now the Democratic front-runner after strong performances in the first three primary contests.
“They both have decades of political experience,” Kelley-Mills said of Biden and Sanders, adding that most of his friends were siding with the senator. “They’re going to really know how to communicate with people on the other side of the aisle in the Senate and I think that if we can get them in there, we can finally start to see the government start to move forward.”
Faith Dupree, a senior psychology major and member of Benedict’s NAACP student chapter, said she was backing Sanders, and sophomore Luis Gonzalez said he would likely vote for Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
The dynamic was a reminder that black voters aren’t unanimous in how they’re approaching the rapidly evolving Democratic contest. That’s a challenge for Biden as he seeks a commanding win in South Carolina on Saturday. After disappointing finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire, he can’t afford losing much black support here, which could leave him with a narrow victory or, even worse, in second place.