Biden apologizes for touting past work with segregationist senators

Biden Iowa 2020

Before a largely African-American crowd in Sumter, South Carolina, former vice-president and current Democratic front-runner Joe Biden apologized for his recent statement on the "civility" of working with segregationists in the party in the 1970s.

"The debate changed things for me quite a bit", said Sheldon Ohringer, 62, a West Des Moines Democrat who had been leaning toward Biden but is now considering Harris and several other candidates.

"I regret it, and I am sorry for any of the pain or the misconception" that might have resulted, he said in SC. "Should that misstep define 50 years of my record for fighting for civil rights, racial justice in this country? That doesn't represent my record".

Former Vice President Joe Biden told CNN in an interview that Democrats are not too far left, despite most of the party's presidential candidates embracing "Medicare for All" and other radical, out-of-the-mainstream proposals. "Yes I was, I regret it", Biden told an audience of mostly black supporters in Sumter, South Carolina.

The controversy erupted in mid-June after Biden recalled his Senate interactions with two prominent advocates of segregation, triggering criticism from two black rivals for the presidency, Kamala Harris and Cory Booker.

Biden's initial remarks were made as he lamented that political leaders in the United States had lost the ability to work together in an increasingly polarized nation. Biden forcefully opposed the government's role in trying to integrate schools, saying he favored desegregation, but believed busing did not achieve equal opportunity. But Catanch, 73, said she wasn't concerned about any critique of Biden's past stances, including on busing, and instead admired what she characterized as Biden's commitment to stay above the fray. But they are coming at a pivotal moment - just after the first Democratic debate and as the candidates are separating into more-distinct tiers.

Announcing her plan, Harris said: "By taking these challenges on, we can close that gap".

She said she was undecided about who to support in 2020, but Mr Biden is among the top of her choices, along with Senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Harris.

Harris was in New Orleans at the Essence festival, where she was among several 2020 White House candidates at the largest annual gathering of black women.

As to why he should be president, Biden noted that while serving under former President Barack Obama he faced severe scrutiny during the vetting process. He was one of the great presidents of the United States of America, and I'm exhausted of hearing about what he didn't do, ' Biden said of Obama.

"That's what we have to do - beat Trump", said Don Palmquist, 79, a retired carpenter from the rural town of Stanton, Iowa.

"I think it resonates with younger voters who get all their news off Twitter or Facebook". And by the way, I think Ocasio-Cortez is a brilliant, bright woman, but she won a primary. But now, he said, "they've got tons of organizers on the ground". "She came across as somebody that's very confident, and that's going to be one of the requirements to do the job this time". "It's an echo chamber", Harpootlian said, adding that he believes the state's primary voters will be older and heavily African American.

Biden on Sunday was continuing his campaign tour of SC, the first Southern state to vote in next year's primary and a crucial proving ground for candidates seeking the support of black Democrats.

Ahead of his SC stops, Biden's campaign said he planned to say his lengthy public service career "will be weaponized against him by opposition researchers", would pledge to "take on those attacks directly" and would not allow his record "to be distorted and mischaracterized".

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