US VP Harris courts Black voters with economic opportunity tour

Harris travels to Arizona in wake of abortion ruling

By Nandita Bose and Jarrett Renshaw

ATLANTA (Reuters) -U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris started a multistate tour on Monday in Atlanta, to tout economic opportunities for Black Americans, as Democrats try to mobilize a critical voting base ahead of November’s election.

A major focus of the tour is energizing and engaging Black men, a key demographic that polls suggest has lost faith in the Democratic Party. A recent Wall Street Journal poll of seven swing states found that some 30% of Black males said they were either definitely or probably going to vote for Republican challenger Donald Trump.

Harris joined Rashad Bilal and Troy Millings of the podcast Earn Your Leisure in Atlanta. The two often speak about financial literacy in Black communities, and their podcasts have been downloaded more than 50 million times.

“One of the compelling reasons for me to start this tour now is to ask all the leaders here for help and getting the word out about what is available to entrepreneurs because we are in the process of putting a lot of money in the streets of America," Harris said.

Harris will travel to Detroit next week and plans to focus on investing in communities, building wealth and ensuring that Americans of all colors have economic opportunities, according to the White House. She will talk about achievements like a $158 million federal grant for Atlanta that will reconnect Black communities cut off by major highways with the city's downtown.

Antonio Barnes, 50, who owns software company Fridgio, which offers on-demand refrigerated transportation, attended Monday's event. He said the administration has had little impact on Black entrepreneurs like himself, but that he still plans to support President Joe Biden this November.

“This is still the best time to be a business owner, start a new business. Noise, uncertainty and conflict are bad for business and so a second Biden administration will be optimal for business owners," Barnes said.

Harris also appeared on "The Drew Barrymore Show" on Monday in a previously taped interview in front of an all-female audience where she explained that she acquired her signature laugh from her mother.

“I have my mother's laugh and I grew up around a bunch of women in particular who laughed from the belly. They laughed - they would sit around the kitchen and drinking their coffee, telling big stories with big laughs,” Harris said.

Biden pulled off a surprise victory in Georgia in 2020, winning by fewer than 12,000 votes. The state also delivered two Democrats to the U.S. Senate, which proved instrumental in passing Biden's legislative agenda.

Democrats view Georgia as an uphill battle and any hope of carrying the state again would require strong turnout from Black voters, who make up 30% of the state's population. Republicans, led by Trump, say they will court Black voters aggressively this year, but face challenges.

Monday marked Harris' third trip to Georgia in 2024 and her twelfth since she took office as vice president.

Harris has made more than 35 trips to 16 states since the start of the year, including a Black History Month tour of historically Black colleges and universities and a March trip to Black Wall Street in Durham, North Carolina, to announce $32 million to support historically underserved entrepreneurs.

(Reporting by Nandita Bose in Atlanta and Jarrett Renshaw in PhiladelphiaEditing by Heather Timmons, Diane Craft and Matthew Lewis)