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Home / World News / To stem slide in polls, Biden apologises for remarks on segregationist lawmakers

To stem slide in polls, Biden apologises for remarks on segregationist lawmakers

Harris had attacked Biden pointedly on the issue of working with segregationists and also accused him of opposing busing, a desegregation tool in the 1970s and 80s, at the party’s presidential debate on June 27, rendering the most severe blow yet to his invincibility as a frontrunner with a double-digit lead over everyone else in the polls.

world Updated: Jul 07, 2019 22:28 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
Former Vice President and one of the Democratic presidential candidates Joe Biden.
Former Vice President and one of the Democratic presidential candidates Joe Biden.(AFP PHOTO.)

Former Vice-President Joe Biden apologized on Saturday for his remarks about segregationist lawmakers in an attempt to stem a slide in polls and shield his campaign from continuing attacks from rivals for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, especially Senator Kamala Harris.

“Was I wrong a few weeks ago to give the impression that somehow, I was praising those men I successfully opposed time and time again?” he said at a rally in South Carolina, referring to his controversial remarks earlier about being able to work successfully with segregationists in the Senate decades ago as he sought to portray himself as a unifier.

“Yes – I was. And I regret it and am sorry for any pain that misperception may have caused.”

Biden also went on the attack saying it was wrong for critics to use that “misstep (to) define a 50-year record of fighting for civil rights and racial justice in this country, as he invoked civil rights leader Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, who as attorney general pushed for the Civil Rights Act, as his inspiration.

Harris had attacked Biden pointedly on the issue of working with segregationists and also accused him of opposing busing, a desegregation tool in the 1970s and 80s, at the party’s presidential debate on June 27, rendering the most severe blow yet to his invincibility as a frontrunner with a double-digit lead over everyone else in the polls. Harris has since climbed in the polls and also raised millions in campaign donations.

Biden, on the other hand, has slipped, though he remains in the lead. But he has felt compelled to apologize, in a move to stop further erosion in polls and, most crucially, his support among African American Democrats, among whom he remains popular and whose support Harris is seeking running as an African American, her father is black and mother Indian.

President Donald Trump, who has been encircling the large Democratic field of presidential hopefuls to get an early go at his eventual challenger, had jumped in on the issue as well. “Sleepy Joe Biden just admitted he worked with segregationists,” he wrote on Twitter on Sunday, unmindful perhaps of criticism of his own ambivalence towards extreme right-wingers and white supremacists.

Trump has focussed his attacks on Biden because polls show, even those done by the president’s re-election campaign, that the former vice-president has a persistent double-digit lead on him in head-to-head polls. In a new poll, Biden beats Trump by 14 points among all adults, 55%-41%; and by 10 points among all registered voters, 53%-43%.