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Joe Biden announces support from 100 faith leaders in South Carolina

California poll has Sanders with slight lead

The Biden campaign is set to announce Wednesday that his team is now backed by more than 100 faith leaders in South Carolina, the home of the first-in-the-South Democratic primary and a key test of candidates' support among black voters.

In a state where the black church has been a prominent institution for centuries, church leaders and congregations are seen as essential components of any Democratic victory.

"Traditionally, the church was one of those institutions that was under black control and it was a place of—not only a worship place, it was a social action place, a social justice place of civic and community life and because of that, the church still occupies some of that role in South Carolina," said Pastor Joe Darby, who is the senior pastor at Nichols Chapel AME Church.

"The diverse black community is not a monolith but people of faith really do make a difference and people of faith tend to go out and vote in large numbers."

While some pastors are not allowed to endorse in their churches, Darby said that others have become fairly good at giving "non-endorsement endorsements." While the Biden campaign has not put up any advertisements on local radio stations, his team says some are slated to go up on gospel stations in the weeks before the state's primary contest on February 29.

Michael Wear, who led religious outreach for Barack Obama's re-election campaign, says that South Carolina is often "heavily influenced" by where the support of the black church settles.

"It's why you have Pete Buttigieg going up with a television ad that references scripture in the state. It's why you had Hillary Clinton doing much the same thing back in 2016. It's why you had Barack Obama holding faith and family events across the state in the summer months before the primary in 2008 and those were, I think, key for him building support," said Wear.

Wear added that Biden's support among black voters is "holding strong," and while "that could change from a strategic perspective, rolling out this list is about sending the message that his lead in South Carolina is insurmountable."

South Carolina Senator Darrell Jackson, the pastor of Bible Way Church of Atlas Road in Columbia, is one of the faith leaders on Biden's list. Jackson, who formerly supported Senator Kamala Harris, told CBS News that while he was disappointed that she dropped out of the race, he is now supporting Biden because he thinks the country needs moral leadership.

"I'm afraid that there are young people who are seeing the current leadership in this country and they're saying 'is that the best we have?' And my answer to them is no, it really isn't and we can do better," said Jackson.

"I think that Joe Biden will do better. I think that he will provide that moral leadership that we could look to our kids and grandkids and future generations and say you may disagree with their political stance but you respect them as a human being."

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