The Kamala Harris Media Tour Hitting Black and Latino Press Near You

September 17 was a typical day in the march toward Election Day. In Scranton, Pennsylvania, Joe Biden was taking part in a drive-in CNN townhall, hitting the president on his coronavirus mismanagement and his disparaging comments about members of the military.

Donald Trump was at a rally in Wisconsin that same day, basking in a "Lock Her Up" chant, touting his record on the pandemic, and needling Biden for using a teleprompter, while he used one himself.

Meanwhile, Senator Kamala Harris, the Democratic vice presidential nominee, was doing something completely different.

In a conversation hosted by She Can Win, Harris sat for a nearly hour-long event called "Sister to Sister, Mobilizing in Action," aimed at Black women, where the first question went to Philadelphia's Black Talk Radio on the "historic inequities around race." Later, Harris visited Taller Puertorriqueño, a non-profit that uses art to promote development within the Philadelphia community and Latino diaspora, for a conversation with Hispanic leaders and elected officials.

As the Republicans and Democrats hold dueling events in the heartland, the Biden campaign is deploying Harris to the heart of communities of color across the nation. They are using interviews with Black, Latino and specialty media to penetrate neighborhoods at a time when COVID-19 physical distancing has reinvented the American tradition of political campaigning.

Harris is the person of choice for the Biden campaign's outreach to people of color.

"Her state visits are focused on turning out and reaching Black and Latino communities," a Biden campaign spokesperson told Newsweek. "There's a huge voting bloc to reach in places like Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, too. We know Hillary lost those states by a slim majority, and know we have to turn out voters if we want to win, because the path to take back the White House runs through those states."

The campaign says Biden excites the Black community, too, but says the former vice president and Harris, the first African-American and Indian-American woman to be named running mate, complement each other in terms of their appeals to voters.

Harris, the California senator who hails from Oakland, has been using that appeal as she crisscrosses the country and jumps on Zoom virtual interviews. She has sat with Black media like The Grio and Essence magazine, as well as MEGATV in Miami, which scored her first Hispanic media interview, and also aired it on the highly-rated South Florida radio station Z92.3FM.

The same day the MEGATV interview aired, R&B icons Brandy and Monica were having a good-natured battle on the Verzuz music series on Instagram, energizing a diverse, predominantly younger audience of 1.2 million people that even had Michelle Obama commenting and watching along. Harris, in a Howard sweater repping her HBCU, made a cameo and encouraged everyone to vote.

April Ryan, the well-respected White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks, who has sparred with Trump, said engaging specialty media in the fall isn't a new tactic. She recalled Al Gore reaching out to her, and meeting with Mitt Romney during previous election years, but underlined the effectiveness of the strategy for a pioneering figure like Harris.

Ryan, who interviewed Harris live on Instagram last week to the tune of 51,000 views, noted that she has spoken virtually with Snoop Dogg—who said he will vote for the first time—along with comedian D.L. Hughley and rapper Killer Mike.

"There is a real effort to shore up the base," Ryan told Newsweek. "They understand there is a segment of Black America—and they're concerned about black men—they need to reach, and it's in the midst of this racial reckoning."

A day before the interview with Ryan, Harris sat for the type of Sunday news show tailor-made to shape headlines. But it wasn't on one of the major broadcast networks: it was on "Al Punto," Univision's "Meet the Press" analog, with Ilia Calderon, an afro-Latina anchor.

As Hispanic Heritage Month kicked off, in the aftermath of Biden's Latino outreach being questioned, Harris addressed reports of harrowing conditions for immigrant women in detention and reiterated the campaign's pledge to shut down private detention centers.

The interview may not have made many headlines in English, but that wasn't the point, with "Al Punto" reaching more Hispanic viewers than ABC's "This Week," CBS' "Face The Nation," NBC's "Meet the Press" and "FOX News Sunday" combined, and 85 percent of its audience being unduplicated on those networks, Univision told Newsweek.

"If you look at the interview, it's in many ways a conversation between two women who share cultural concerns and that plays into Harris' role as the empathetic face of the campaign when it comes to cultural issues," said high-profile Univision journalist and columnist Leon Krauze. "That combination makes it very clear where the priorities lie for the campaign."

Harris charisma crosses many ethnic and racial boundaries, observers say.

"The truth is Harris is popular among communities of color, young people, black people, Latino voters," a source close to the campaign told Newsweek. "There's no question about that."

The Biden campaign's approach is a reminder that politics is personal, Ryan said.

"People want to say you touched me, even in this virtual moment, they need to find these ways to reach out to people," she said. "Especially when they're not doing these superspreader rallies like the president is doing."

Democrats said that while this kind of outreach can fly under the radar, all that matters is voters of color are being reached through any means possible.

"At the end of the day, Biden and Harris need just 40 percent of the white vote, but they need 90 plus percent of black voters, and 70 percent of Latinos," said Albert Morales, senior political director for polling firm Latino Decisions. "Victory for these guys is maximizing every single opportunity they have to reach a diverse audience."

al punto kamala harris
Senator Kamala Harris, the Democratic vice presidential nominee, sat down for an interview on Al Punto with Univision's Ilia Calderon. Courtesy Univision Network

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