Biden attends services at South Carolina church, where voters say they want a fighter

West Columbia, S.C. — At a private fundraiser in South Carolina on Saturday, former Vice President Joe Biden gave President Trump a nickname of his own: “Clown.”

On Sunday morning, congregants at the early service at the Brookland Baptist Church here said they’re looking for a Democrat who is strong enough to take on Mr. Trump in the general election.

While the pews were undoubtedly packed with those seeking spiritual fulfillment, two attendees shifted the conversation to politics before the prayers. Biden and Dr. Jill Biden sat in the front row of the large church, which was filled almost entirely by black congregants.

Pamela Andrews Hutto, a 66-year-old retired English teacher, said her No. 1 issue is beating Mr. Trump.

“Trump is destroying America,” Hutto said. “There is so much hatred now. I see it.”

“I see it where people would keep their mouths closed years ago, but they feel free to talk about them because he does,” she added. 

Allen Green, 56, said Biden can “straighten out” the president.

“[Biden] said he wanted to take him out to the barn and I think [Mr. Trump] might need a nice little barn-settling,” Green said, referring to the Biden’s statement last year that he would have “beat the hell out” of the president for his comments about women.

Marie Jackson, 64, said she does not view the president as “for the people.”

“I think he could be a little easier on the people. I don’t think the wall needs to be up,” Jackson said, referring to Mr. Trump’s promised border wall.

Since announcing his candidacy in late April, Biden’s stump speech has regularly included denunciations of Mr. Trump’s conduct, particularly the president’s reaction to the deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017.

During Sunday’s service, Rev. Charles B. Jackson Sr. recognized a Christian student athlete who is heading to Iowa State on an athletic scholarship and a group of young female entrepreneurs. He then acknowledged the former vice president, and the congregation reacted with excitement — the women ushers dressed in all white cheered, while several others jumped with delight.

Jackson told Biden, who is Catholic, that while he is not the first candidate to attend services here, he received a “pretty major” applause compared to the others. Kendall Corley, the Biden campaign’s South Carolina state director, is a member of Brookland Baptist.

There were a few congregants who told CBS News it is more important for candidates to focus their campaigns on specific policies.

Michael Jackson, 47, said his top concern is affordable universal health care, and he is considering supporting Biden, Sen. Cory Booker or Sen. Kamala Harris. Other congregants, like 73-year-old Wille Wilson, said she hoped the Trump administration’s tax cuts would be repealed — she said her tax refund this year was $300 less than last year.

This is Biden’s first trip to the Palmetto state since announcing his third bid for the presidency on April 25. He held one rally and a private fundraiser here.

After praying and clapping along to the choir music with the congregants, Biden told reporters outside the church that South Carolina is “critical” for his campaign.

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