Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden was in Rock Hill Thursday to talk with voters at Clinton College, a historically black college. Shortly after that gathering, The Herald got an exclusive interview with the former vice president. Here is a summary of the questions he answered. Some answers have been edited for brevity.
Why did you come to Rock Hill today?
I came here for two reasons. One, I wanted to be upstate. I wanted to be able to cover the areas and I wanted to come to the college. And I’ve spent a fair amount of time on HBCUs across the country and I think this is a good place and a good forum to speak about what concerns me. It wasn’t unique to Clinton College, but it’s a place that has a forum where I feel comfortable. I always feel comfortable on college campuses.
Do you see the potential to win South Carolina in the primary? Are you targeting specific demographic and geographic areas?
I do see a potential to win it. And what I’ve done is I’ve tried to not only come to low country but in upland, up here. So I plan to campaign throughout the entire state.
Have you identified South Carolina as a crucial state to win?
South Carolina is sort of a window into Super Tuesday because Super Tuesday contains a number of states that have significant African American populations. I’ve always had overwhelming support in my career from the African American community. As I said, downstairs, most people don’t realize it, but Delaware has the eighth largest black population in America as a percent of population. And it’s been the backbone of my support. It’s how I got started in politics.
It’s very important to be able to come to South Carolina and win — not only as it relates to the African American community, but across the board. There’s four gates you got to go through to be the nominee. And they’re the first four early states — the two caucuses, Iowa and Nevada and the two primaries — New Hampshire and South Carolina. So, I think it’s very important.
You talk a lot about your support among African Americans in all states, but you especially have a high amount of support in South Carolina. Do you know why that is?
I’ve been coming here a long, long time. I was involved with Sen. Hollings really early, early on and a couple of your governors. I’ve come down here and campaigned for candidates — my good friend, Jim Clyburn. And so, I think I know the state a little bit. I don’t mean to overstate it, but I think I’ve gotten to know it. I think I’ve probably been here more than any other candidates who are seeking the nomination. And so I feel comfortable here.
How would you work with powerful Republicans, such as Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott if you are elected?
I’ve known Lindsey for years and years. We used to travel a lot together. We were mutual friends of John McCain, and Lindsey and I traveled around the world together, particularly in war zones.
And so you know, look, there’s things that Lindsey and I fundamentally disagree on. But there will not be any animus or anything with us. I mean we’re friends.
I don’t know the junior Senator well. But I found him to be someone, as I’ve watched and observed, someone who is prepared to work across the aisle for things that affect South Carolina, so I think we’d be able to work together.
There was a man downstairs who said he met you once before and you bonded with him about how both your sons were veterans. He said he remembered that conversation with you and you asking him ‘how is your son? How’s he doing? How’s he getting back into civilian life?’ And he was really happy to see you again today.
There’s so many people who have gone through difficult times, and difficult times is even just having a son or daughter deployed. I know myself, when I’ve gone through difficult times, there’s always been someone there that was somebody who could empathize with me.
I think it’s important that people know, at least it’s important to me, that people understand both my concerns and my interest. And I try to understand theirs.
I still think it’s about connections, I don’t mean political connections. I mean connecting with people. And the one thing my dad used to say, ‘I don’t expect the government to solve my problems. But I expect them to understand them.’ I think it’s pretty important.