Election 2020

Deval Patrick Says Biden's Black Support Is 'Soft,' So Where Are Those Voters Going?

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick speaks during a news conference on Tuesday, April 29, 2014, in Boston. (AP Photo/Josh Reynolds)

On Monday, former Gov. Deval Patrick (D-Mass.), one of the latecomers in the 2020 Democratic race, insisted that former Vice President Joe Biden’s support among black voters “has always been soft.” A new national poll from Quinnipiac seemed to confirm that idea, showing Biden’s support among black voters cratering and diverting to other candidates.

“Well, I love Joe, but that support has always been soft,” Patrick said in an interview Monday. “I think that’s mostly about name recognition, I totally get that, and he’s earned it. But I’ve spent more time in South Carolina than any other candidate… [and] it’s wide open.”

“What folks are looking for, I think, in South Carolina, is to get validated here in New Hampshire, frankly. You can sense down there, folks just want to be convinced by New Hampshire that our campaign has got the legs,” the former governor said.

Biden has already conceded that he will likely lose the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday. If he does, and his black support craters, where do those black voters go?

A Quinnipiac University poll released Monday seems to suggest an answer — or a few answers.

In the space of two weeks, Biden’s support among black voters nationally has cratered. In Quinnipiac’s January 28 poll, the former veep enjoyed 49 percent support among this key voting bloc. In the poll released Monday, that number had dropped to 27 percent — a loss of 22 points after Biden’s embarrassing fourth-place finish in the Iowa caucuses.

Where did that 22 percent of black voters go? Some of them went to the Iowa caucuses winner, former Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who rose from zero percent to four percent in two weeks. A few went to Iowa runner-up Sen. Bernie Sanders (S-USSR), who jumped from 17 percent to 19 percent. Deval Patrick did not even register any support among black voters.

Yet the real shift seems to have gone from Biden to former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. At the end of January, Bloomberg only had 7 percent support among black voters nationally. On Monday, that number had ballooned to 22 percent — a 15 percent swing.

The other billionaire in the race, coal-investor-turned-green-activist Tom Steyer, made a play for Biden’s black voters in the New Hampshire debate on Friday, but it seems Bloomberg’s ads have really paid off for him. If Mike Bloomberg can cut into Biden’s support among black voters, he could become a serious force in the primary.

This Quinnipiac poll could be an outlier, but it suggests one former mayor is far more popular among black voters than the other one — and it’s not the former mayor who won the Iowa caucuses.

Bloomberg just released a new ad touting his ties to former President Barack Obama. Could this strategy work out for him?

Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.