Election 2020 Politics

Why Ayanna Pressley’s endorsement matters for Warren, who’s fighting to win black women’s votes

The endorsements arrived as Warren and her fellow 2020 candidates fight to win support of black voters away from former vice president Joe Biden, who has a robust lead among these voters in the early primary state of South Carolina. At the same time, black women have organized throughout the 2020 primary cycle to push candidates to release specific plans, and to have a say in choosing their party’s nominee.

In announcing their support, Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and the newly formed group Black Womxn Form cast Warren as a candidate best positioned to fight for black women and other marginalized groups.

On Wednesday, Pressley, a member of the Squad who ran on the slogan “change can’t wait,” gave the rallying cry a Warren-themed update as she announced her endorsement.

“Big structural change can’t wait,” she tweeted, creating a rhetorical link between her own personal mission and Warren’s.

In her video, Pressley cast Warren as a candidate who would fight to redistribute power to those who had historically lacked it.

“I have seen Elizabeth in small church basements and packed gymnasiums, and she is consistent,” Pressley says. “You all heard about the senator’s plans, but here’s the thing. The plans are about power: Who has it, who refuses to let it go, and who deserves more of it.

“For Elizabeth and for me, power belongs in the hands of the people,” she continued, adding that Warren’s plans “center those who never had access to it in the first place.”

By Sunday morning, Pressley’s video had been viewed 1.3 million times on Twitter.

The same week, Black Womxn For released an “enthusiastic and wholehearted” endorsement of Warren predicated upon a list of commitments that they expected her to meet if elected.

In a statement, the group wrote, “After gathering in fourteen cities across the United States and collecting hundreds of survey responses from self-identified progressive black women and gender non-conforming/non-binary folks, the overwhelming majority of excitement and support is for Sen. Elizabeth Warren.”

The group formed this summer as a way to organize black women, gender nonconforming and non-binary people for the 2020 election, Slate reported.

“The political process is certainly not designed for us to engage in a way that we thrive or that suits us best,” Black Womxn For director Angela Peoples told Slate. “A part of the beauty of this project is: We created our own container and that allows us to engage, make asks and to operate with nuance.”

Though they gave Warren an enthusiastic endorsement, Black Womxn For stressed that they “endorse Senator Warren with the full weight of accountability.”

“Our endorsement is not a blanket approval of all of her acts, both past, present, and future but rather a firm and calculated understanding that should she fall short of her commitments to us and our communities she will be held to account,” they said in their announcement.

While it’s too early to tell how these endorsements impact the primary, there may be a window for Warren to gain ground with black women.

An Oct. 23 Monmouth University poll of likely primary voters in South Carolina found that 39 percent of black voters considered Biden their first choice for the nomination, while Warren polled at 11 percent, about even with Sanders and slightly ahead of Harris. It’s the first state on the Democratic primary schedule where black voters typically make up a majority of primary voters.

But the poll also showed that though Biden’s support among black primary voters was still far more robust than any of his competitors, his support had waned slightly — and Warren had made incremental gains.

“Biden is still in a pretty good position in South Carolina, but there are some signs that he might not have a true firewall among black voters,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute. “If he does not do well in the earlier contests in February, there may be potential for current preferences to shift here.”

Scott Clement contributed to this report.

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