JUDY WOODRUFF: South Carolina’s primary is
an early and critical test of support from
That is why Democratic presidential candidates
have already held more than 400 events in
the Palmetto State.
Yamiche Alcindor is back to report on how
the 2020 hopefuls still have a lot of voters
to win over.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: In North Charleston, South
Carolina, Royal Missionary Baptist Church
has seen its fair share of presidential candidates.
ISAAC HOLT, Royal Missionary Baptist Church:
Some people say we need a change in the nation’s
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Reverend Isaac Holt isn’t
making any endorsements.
He believes the best way to help his members
decide who to support is to give them options.
ISAAC HOLT: Let’s receive sister Kamala Harris.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: So, he’s welcoming the candidates
to show up in person and speak to his more
than 3,000 parishioners.
KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), Presidential Candidate:
Good morning, Royal.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Today, California Senator
Kamala Harris is taking a turn.
KAMALA HARRIS: Yes, we must love thy neighbor,
but let’s define and be clear about who is
Our neighbor is not just the person that lives
We learn and know everybody is our neighbor,
including that man by the side of the road
who may be afflicted, who may have been rejected.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Black voters, like those
at church this morning, made up more than
60 percent of the South Carolina Democratic
primary electorate in 2016.
That means the path to the presidential nomination
runs straight through communities like this
But Harris is still struggling to break through
She’s stuck in single digits in recent polls.
She trails former Vice President Joe Biden,
as well as Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth
But she is ahead of South Bend, Indiana, Mayor
Pete Buttigieg and New Jersey Senator Cory
What do you make of the fact that there are
two white male candidates, both Joe Biden
and Bernie Sanders, who have more support
in the African-American community?
KAMALA HARRIS: A lot of it has to do with
the fact that they are known, and we are still
And there is still a long way to go in this
campaign to be able to do that.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: For a number of the senator’s
Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority sisters, many sitting
in the front row of church, the candidate
showing up here is an important step.
LORETTA JENKINS SUMTER, South Carolina: You
need to start grassroots.
And I think her infusion into the community
like this is the best way to go.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: But she has some work to
LORETTA JENKINS SUMTER: She has some work
She needs to interface more, be it in this
community, the African-American community,
the Hispanic community, wherever.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: The South Carolina primary
is just five months away.
That gives candidates precious little time
to make in-roads with the biggest voting bloc
in the Democratic Party here.
Coming to a historically black community like
Liberty Hill in North Charleston is a prime
After the Civil War, freed African-Americans
founded this neighborhood.
Today, it’s holding its first annual reunion.
Hester McFadden helped plan the celebration.
HESTER MCFADDEN, South Carolina: We thought
it was necessary to bring together folks so
that they could learn about the history of
All too often in this country, a lot of the
African-American communities are fading away,
for whatever reasons, gentrification and for
a lot of other reasons.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: In this neighborhood, politics
and fellowship are intertwined.
SHAMEKIA DESAUSSURE, South Carolina: You got
like 20 candidates running at this point.
To read up on 20 different people, that’s
too many people at this point.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Tell me a little bit about
who you’re thinking you like for the 2020
TERRY HART, South Carolina: I like Biden.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Why?
TERRY HART: I like Biden because I think he
will still have a lot of what Obama did.
THOMAS ALSTOM, South Carolina: I’m hoping
Elizabeth Warren actually succeeds in her
bid for the nomination.
You know, actually, I like quite a few of
I think we have got a great team.
Biden is all right, but I think Biden and
Bernie are a little past the lifespan, you
Cory Booker, he’s — you know, I mean, he’s
SHAMEKIA DESAUSSURE: Talking about Harris,
so, I — I’m just not connecting with her
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Some black voters said they
don’t trust Harris because of her background
as a prosecutor.
SHAMEKIA DESAUSSURE: What I have read so far
about her, they were saying that she was kind
of harsh on African-Americans, especially
on drug charges and things like that.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: So how is she trying to
change this perception?
KAMALA HARRIS: Look, first of all, let’s just
back up, because here’s the thing.
I am the only one on the stage who decided
to jump in the fire at a very young age in
my life and do what I could to reform the
system from the inside.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Hester and her daughter
Stephanie represent a generational divide
that is showing up in polls.
Like most older black voters, Hester is strongly
in the Joe Biden camp.
She likes his connection to former President
Stephanie likes Biden, but she also likes
Sanders, and her mind isn’t quite made up
There are times when African-Americans are
given this message of criminal justice: I
want to come to your church and talk about
these other things.
Is there pandering that you worry about?
STEPHANIE MCFADDEN, South Carolina: Absolutely.
HESTER MCFADDEN: Yes, most definitely.
STEPHANIE MCFADDEN: We don’t need a candidate
to play on our emotions.
We just want someone to get the job done.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: As African-American women,
what are your concerns when you think about
your race and your gender?
HESTER MCFADDEN: I’m concerned about equity
in the job market and housing, and to make
sure that our children are not straddled with
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Hester McFadden thinks the
still-crowded Democratic field could learn
from her reunion.
HESTER MCFADDEN: The candidates need to sit
down and say, look, let’s — let’s work together
Let’s work together as a united front.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Meanwhile, Liberty Hill
has already started thinking about its next
reunion in 2021.
That one won’t be overshadowed by presidential
For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Yamiche Alcindor
in North Charleston, South Carolina.