Harris' Indian heritage could boost Biden with Asian-American voters

Posted 42 days ago

From WWW.REUTERS.COM

(Reuters) - Joe Biden’s presidential campaign plans to step up engagement with Asian-American voters this fall and is betting running mate Kamala Harris’ experience as the daughter of an Indian immigrant will resonate with the fastest-growing U. S. minority population.

Harris, whose mother was from India and father from Jamaica, made history this week as both the first Black woman and Asian American to join a major-party U. S. presidential ticket. Introducing her on Wednesday as the Democratic vice presidential nominee, Biden said, “Her story is America’s story.”

Asian Americans are an oft-overlooked political constituency, making up less than 6% of the overall U. S. population. But their numbers are quickly expanding in critical battleground states, and galvanizing their turnout could be enough to swing the outcome of November’s presidential election.

After Biden announced Harris as his running mate, Amit Jani, the campaign’s national director for Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) outreach, said he saw an immediate surge of enthusiasm on social media and message boards and received calls from Asian Americans seeking to get more involved.

“Within the South Asian and Indian communities, there’s a level of excitement I haven’t seen before,” Jani said.

The Biden campaign has said it will devote part of a $280 million fall advertising blitz to AAPI outreach, including targeted buys in ethnic media.

While Asian Americans are far from monolithic and are comprised of many different ethnicities, they have supported Democrats overall in recent decades. In 2016, Democrat Hillary Clinton won AAPI voters over Republican Donald Trump by a 2-to-1 margin, according to a Reuters/Ipsos Election Day poll.

In states such as Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Georgia and Texas – all of which are closely contested ahead of this year’s presidential election, according to opinion polls – the AAPI population grew more than 40% between 2012 and 2018.

That was more than triple the pace for all residents in each state, according to data compiled by AAPI Data and the nonpartisan advocacy group APIAVote. Indian Americans represent the largest Asian-American group in each of those states.

Trump’s 2016 victory came down to fewer than 80,000 total votes in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, where more than half a million AAPI residents live.

“These are places where the Asian-American vote might mean the difference between victory and defeat,” Karthick Ramakrishnan, a professor at the University of California-Riverside and the founder of AAPI Data, said of the various swing states.

In an effort to win support from Indian-American voters, Trump hosted a 50,000-person “Howdy Modi” rally in Texas with visiting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi last year. Modi returned the favor in February, organizing a 110,000-attendee rally for Trump in India.

Advocates said Harris’ background as a daughter of immigrants would resonate with Asian Americans of all ethnicities, given that two-thirds of the AAPI population are first-generation immigrants... (Read more)