Michael McClain, the longtime pastor of the historic Liberty Hill Missionary Baptist Church in Catawba, South Carolina, has been hired by former Vice President Joe Biden’s local campaign to help woo the powerful bloc of churchgoing voters ahead of that state’s 2020 Democratic presidential primary.
Biden’s campaign confirmed the hire to McClatchy Thursday while noting that he has already helped to secure the endorsements of most of a group of 39 local faith leaders in his first two weeks on the job.
South Carolina is an important state for presidential candidates in the crowded Democratic field because it will be the first state to vote in the primaries in 2020 and African Americans who are highly religious are expected to cast a majority of the votes.
Biden, who is the current Democratic frontrunner, has the moral character to appeal to these voters, McClain argues.
“Joe Biden is solid, he is moral, he is sincere, and he is loyal, and he cares about all people, not just a certain segment of people,” McClain told McClatchy in a recent interview. “His policies are sound because he is sound. And he has a record that coincides with his soundness.”
Pointing to the anxiety voters have about President Donald Trump’s morality, McClain said: “It is going to be important throughout the nation in this election because the soul of America is at stake in this election. We are going to need people who have a sound moral compass to step up and speak and vote.”
The pastor, who also serves as the national outreach coordinator for the National Religious Partnership for the Environment, said Biden has been getting a positive reception from pastors so far but he wants to help him make his case directly before congregations.
“By him being in the church, being in the crowd in the church — when he’s in the church, it’s a natural for him,” McClain explained. “And people see that and feel that. That’s one of the reasons, with the African American church, they want to see you. They want to see and feel the genuineness of a candidate.”
He further argued that Biden’s Catholicism aligns closely with how blacks in South Carolina practice their faith.
“He is talking to people who have faith in the same God that he does ... they’re talking about taking care of the least of these. You look out for your brother. Always trying to help someone, not condemn someone, not beat someone down,” he said.
Recent polling data show Biden consistently holding an approximately 20-point polling lead among African-American voters nationally, and in South Carolina, that lead is larger.
Harold Crawford, chairman of the Aiken County, South Carolina, Democrats told Vice that it’s partly due to name recognition.
“Joe is Joe,” Crawford said. "I mean, yeah, he comes up with gaffes and what have you, but he's been in the business for quite a number of years, and he has quite a bit of respect.”