COLUMBIA, SC — COLUMBIA, SC (AP) – Vice President Kamala Harris highlighted the Biden administration’s achievements in broadband internet access during a visit to South Carolina, which was recently made the site of the first Democratic presidential votes in 2024 campaign.
Harris’ trip Monday, his fourth to the early voting state since becoming vice president, “will highlight progress in the Administration’s efforts to expand affordable high-speed internet across the country,” according to the guidance from the White House.
But the trip to Columbia also comes as Democrats’ national attention turns to South Carolina, where a landslide 2020 primary victory gave Joe Biden the momentum to pick up Super Tuesday victories and bounce back more opponents from the race.
Biden has repeatedly acknowledged the state’s key role in his nomination as well as the importance of its heavily Black Democratic electorate. During speeches at a fundraiser last year, Harris thanked South Carolina Democrats, who “put President Joe Biden and me on the path to the White House.”
Last year, Biden asked the Democratic National Committee to move the state to the top of the presidential primary voting calendar, which party officials did this month. Through its email lists, the Democratic Party of South Carolina has begun selling buttons, mugs and apparel displaying the state’s new status with the tagline “South Carolina Democrats Pick Winners.”
But Harris’ appearance also comes as a debate over whether Biden — who, at age 80, is the nation’s oldest president — should seek a second term in office, as many expect. According to a poll released this month from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, only 37% of Democrats say they want Biden to seek a second term.
Although he has long said he wants to run for re-election, Biden has yet to make it official, struggling to dispel questions about whether he is too old to continue serving as president. In an exclusive interview last week with The Associated Press, first lady Jill Biden gave one of the clearest indications that her husband will run in 2024, saying that “pretty much” nothing’ y can except find the time and place for the announcement.
The Republican candidate field is taking shape, with a focus on South Carolina, home of the South’s first GOP presidential primary. Former President Donald Trump held a campaign event at the Statehouse last month, and former Governor Nikki Haley announced her candidacy in Charleston a few weeks ago. Senator Tim Scott is also considering a potential bid.
Equalizing access to high-speed internet is a priority for Biden, who in 2021 signed into law a $1 trillion infrastructure package that, along with traditional public works projects such as building roads and bridges, including $65 billion for broadband expansion.
The expansion of broadband internet is also a top priority for Rep. Jim Clyburn, one of the main supporters on Capitol Hill of the White House and the only Democrat in the congress of South Carolina. Clyburn, the assistant Democratic leader of the chamber, has long advocated for more widespread internet access across the country, pushing for affordable, high-powered networks in rural communities.
Last week, Clyburn appeared with Republican Gov. Henry McMaster to announce the formation of a program – funded by the bipartisan infrastructure package – designed to identify the areas of greatest need in South Carolina and invest in broadband infrastructure.
Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP.