Rep. James E. Clyburn, the South Carolina Democrat who was key to President Biden’s 2020 win, warned that the president and his campaign messaging are not breaking through the “MAGA wall” ahead of a general election that will probably have him facing former president Donald Trump.
CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Clyburn on Sunday if he was concerned about Biden’s standing with the Black community. Biden will be visiting Clyburn’s home state on Monday, when he will deliver remarks at the historic Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, the site of a 2015 shooting in which nine Black men and women were murdered by a white supremacist.
“I’m not worried — I’m very concerned,” Clyburn replied.
The congressman said he has sat down with Biden to convey his concerns. He noted that while he has “no problem with the Biden administration and what it has done,” he worries about how the president and his campaign have been unable to convey the successes of Biden’s administration to voters.
“My problem is that we have not been able to break through that MAGA wall in order to get to people exactly what this president has done,” Clyburn said.
As an example, Clyburn cited Biden’s promise to pass student debt relief, noting that, while part of his effort was blockaded by “six Republican attorneys general and the United States Supreme Court,” the president still forgave tens of billions in debt for millions of people.
The Biden administration pursued targeted debt relief after the president’s plan to forgive up to $20,000 in federal student loans for millions of borrowers was struck down in June by the Supreme Court. In the past two years, the administration has relaxed the rules or made adjustments to student debt relief programs for public servants, defrauded students and disabled borrowers. Years of mismanagement or exceedingly complex rules governing the programs had denied many borrowers a chance of having their loans forgiven.
The Education Department said Biden’s policy changes have resulted in nearly 3.6 million borrowers being approved for a total of $127 billion in debt cancellation.
“But nobody writes about that. Nobody talks about that,” Clyburn said Sunday. “I’m still hearing from people as recent as yesterday that he did not keep his promise on student loan debt relief. And he has.”
Several other achievements of the Biden administration, Clyburn argued, are not being talked about enough on the campaign trail. He cited the fact that Biden has named more African American women to courts of appeals “than all previous presidents combined,” his passage of the Inflation Reduction Act and his efforts to reduce the cost of medical care, including the new cap on insulin prices.
“This president is keeping his promises, but … people keep focusing on the one or two things he did not get accomplished,” Clyburn said.
Clyburn’s warning comes a day after The Washington Post reported that former president Barack Obama has raised questions about the structure of Biden’s reelection campaign and has discussed the matter with Biden directly.
According to a person familiar with the conversations, Obama grew “animated” in discussing the 2024 election and Trump’s potential return to power, and has suggested to Biden’s advisers that the campaign needs more top-level decision-makers at its headquarters in Wilmington, Del., or must empower the people already in place. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss confidential conversations.
Tyler Pager and Danielle Douglas-Gabriel contributed to this report.