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Panel of South Carolina black voters give their take on Democratic race

Updated 12:00 PM ET, Fri January 17, 2020

Washington (CNN) - A group of black Democratic voters from South Carolina shared their thoughts on the 2020 Democratic field with CNN ahead of the state's primary in late February.

"The bottom line, in simple terms, we want to elect a Democratic candidate that can beat Trump," Cassandra Williams Rush told CNN's Alisyn Camerota during a voter panel segment that aired Friday.

A recent Washington Post-Ipsos poll showed former Vice President Joe Biden with a double digit lead among black Democratic voters, and the six panelists acknowledged Biden's foreign policy experience, electability, and tenure in the Obama administration.

But of the six voters who spoke to CNN, only one raised his hand when asked if they'd vote for Biden in the primary.

"Biden is the person I think that will pull in white voters, black voters, men, women. He's that candidate," Darion McCloud of Columbia, the lone Biden supporter, said when asked why Biden appeals to black voters.

Two of the panelists said they planned to vote for Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Another panelist, Jennifer Winston of Charleston, said she's leaning toward Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders because of how he's addressed college tuition and student loans.

Asked about Pete Buttigieg, who's been polling low with black voters, McCloud said the former mayor is short of experience, but a "gifted politician."

"He's got some well-publicized issues with the black community. I don't know if he can right that mid-campaign," he added.

Williams Rush, who's from Williamsburg County, is leaning toward California billionaire Tom Steyer because of his environmental standpoints. Alex Belk, a undecided voter from Columbia, South Carolina, said he also likes Steyer's philanthropy efforts.

Charleston native Vanity Deterville said she feels like Steyer has pander to the black vote, citing his use of a HBCU marching band at Charleston County Democratic Party's annual Blue Jamboree.

"I thought that the notion was disingenuous and ever since then it's put a bad taste in my mouth," she said.

As the race gets closer to the primaries, the thinning field of candidates has become less and less diverse, with Sen. Cory Booker the latest person of color to drop out. One of the panelists said it was "insulting" to suggest that black voters vote for black candidates because of race.

"We don't agree with you just because of the color of your skin. That's one thing America has to understand about the black race. ... It's almost like you're saying we don't have our own ideas and views, which we do, beyond race," Belk said.

"I need to see that you're thinking about me, and I need a candidate who can speak to race, not just class," another panelist, Benny Starr of Columbia, told CNN.


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