COLUMBIA — With less than two months left until South Carolina's Democratic presidential primary, former Vice President Joe Biden picked up the sought-after endorsement Monday of an influential lawmaker from Charleston.
State Sen. Marlon Kimpson, who has hosted town halls for many of the top Democratic contenders over the course of the race, told The Post and Courier that he has decided to back Biden because he believes the longtime Washington politician has the best chance of defeating President Donald Trump.
"He is the most electable candidate appealing to the broadest base of my constituents," said Kimpson, who represents a majority African American district that includes parts of Charleston and Dorchester counties.
All of the top candidates have earned the support of at least some South Carolina officials and activists, racking up lengthy endorsement lists. But Kimpson's support represents one of the most high-profile Palmetto State lawmakers so far to publicly pick a candidate.
The news could help Biden continue consolidating support in what has long been his strongest early-voting primary state, the first with a sizable African American voting bloc that could serve as a bellwether for other Southern contests later in the race.
After moderating town halls with several candidates, Kimpson said he has been impressed by the depth of the Democratic field.
He praised U.S. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey for "inspirational" performances on the stump, former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg for his intellect and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts for attracting enthusiastic crowds.
However, citing polls that show Biden competing strongly against Trump in key battleground states and his support from African American voters, Kimpson said his view of Biden's chances in the general election ultimately overrode all other priorities.
"This is not an exercise, this next election is for the soul of our country," Kimpson said. "While I have reviewed a number of the policy proposals (from other candidates) that are revolutionary, in my view, the revolution can wait. We need a safe choice in this election and I believe it's Joe Biden."
At 77, Biden has faced persistent questions during the primary about his age. But Kimpson said he was struck by Biden's energy during a full day they spent together in July that included multiple church services, town halls, private meetings and fundraisers.
"I have no doubts about his stamina," Kimpson said. "I actually think his wisdom is probably the most important element of his candidacy."
Kimpson also recalled how Biden took time before the town hall to review detailed policy books with his staff to update his stump speech rather than worrying about whatever was popular on Twitter that day.
"To me, that was refreshing because I think we're at a time now when we need focused leadership, not driven by the social media buzz of the day but a methodical plan in consultation with experienced people who are credentialed to offer guidance," Kimpson said.
Kimpson joins former Gov. Dick Riley, former Charleston Mayor Joe Riley and state Sen. Darrell Jackson of Columbia as some of his top South Carolina endorsers
Arguably the only more prominent Democratic officials left in South Carolina who have yet to endorse are the state's two Democratic congressmen, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn of Columbia and U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham of Charleston.
Neither have indicated whether they will make an endorsement before the Feb. 29 primary. But Kimpson argued Biden as the nominee would have the most positive impact on down-ballot candidates in competitive South Carolina races like Cunningham's re-election bid.
"Joe Biden at the top of the ticket would no doubt bode well for Joe Cunningham," Kimpson said. "And Joe Cunningham's philosophy of working across the aisle is consistent with Vice President Biden's statements that he'd be a president for all Americans, not just Democrats."