Former Vice President Joe Biden is betting big on Nevada for a comeback following underwhelming finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire – hoping that black and brown voters give his campaign for president a much-needed boost.
"The reason why we are here is because, you know, 99% of the African American vote hasn't spoken yet and 99% of Latino vote hasn't spoken yet," Biden said at an organizing event with Latino leaders last week.
Biden packed in several events during the final sprint ahead of the Nevada caucuses with a focus on reaching minority voters, including stops at a barber college, a Black History Month festival and a predominately black church.
The enthusiasm for the former vice president rippled through several of those stops. At a Black History month festival in Las Vegas, Biden was swarmed by dozens as he pushed his way through the crowd. He stopped for selfies, handshakes and hugs for 30 minutes before he reached the stage. As he neared, the emcee of the event greeted him as "Mr. President."
Still, some younger faces in the crowd didn't recognize the man who was drawing in all the attention.
"That's the man who was vice president to Barack Obama," a woman told a young boy at the festival who didn't recognize Biden, but waited to take a photo with him anyway.
The campaign is banking on diverse voters, who polls shows he excels with, to help buoy the former vice president's slow start in the 2020 race.
However, the generational divide in support among black voters is stark.
A January Washington Post-Ipsos, showed that although Biden leads his rivals by more than two to one overall among black Americans, he trails Sen. Bernie Sanders 42% to 30% among black Democrats ages 18 to 34.
Biden’s support among black voters has also declined, dropping from 51% last month to 32% now; according the latest ABC News Washington Post poll released on February 19, and a poll released this week by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal shows Biden and Sanders with roughly the same amount of support among African-American voters.
As early voting kicked off, the former vice president brought the black congregation at First AME Church in North Las Vegas to its feet during Sunday church service and stayed after to meet every last voter.
Gretchen Toliver, an elderly black voter, chased after the former vice president, catching his attention as he walked down the stairs to enter his vehicle.
When Biden reached for a handshake, she told him, "I don't want no handshake, I want a hug."
Why some black voters are sticking with Biden over other candidates.
Toliver, who said she voted for Biden during early voting she some in the black community are reluctant to consider another candidate.
"That Amy Klobuchar," Toliver said. "She's wishy-washy."
The Minnesota senator has been under fire for her record as a prosecutor, where she oversaw a controversial murder case involving a black teen sentenced to life in prison. Defense attorneys for the teen say new evidence shows he may be innocent, but Klobuchar said she "wasn't aware of that information" calling for a review of the latest and old evidence.
"She says one thing and does another thing as far as the black community is concerned. Buttigieg, he's made some comments that he should be sorry for. But if he apologizes, I can go for it," Toliver said.
When asked by ABC News why black and brown voters who are skeptical of her record should give her campaign a chance, Klobuchar said she will “have a case to make for the good things that I've done in the criminal justice system.”
“I need to get to know them because my name ID wasn't very high, on my bank account, not as big. And so it's on me now to share with people my record,” Klobuchar stated.
Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who had a strong finish in Iowa and New Hampshire and has released a plan to combat systemic racism admitted in November he has his 'work cut out' for him appealing to black voters.
Nationally, Buttigieg is challenged with winning the support of minority voters – only drawing 4% of support from Democratic and Democratic-leaning African-American voters, according to the latest Quinnipiac University poll released on Feb 10. For the same demographic, Klobuchar and Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, polled at less than 1 percent.
Biden and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg jumped ahead by a wide margin the poll, respectively at 27% and 22% with Democratic and Democratic-leaning black voters.
Another black voter, Monica Branch, said some of the other candidates haven't put in the work in communities of color.
"They're not coming out to reach out. They're seeing from the outside, they're not actually in the mix with everybody. And I feel like Joe is actually in the mix," Branch said.
An average of Nevada primary polls from 538 show Sanders with a significant lead over the field, with Biden maintaining his position in second place.
As the caucus inches closer, Stan Breland, a black voter from Las Vegas, said it's too late for the other candidates to show up now and make their pitch.
"If you wanna appeal to black people and people of color, be present. Stand up. When the issues get tough, do what people of color do, we get back up. We get knocked down we get back up. Go on the senate floor, do what you need to do. Be unpopular. And then you can get our vote," Breland said.
Several voters expressed concern over the billionaire candidates in the race, businessman Tom Steyer and Bloomberg.
"They got too much money. I don't want anybody up there with a whole lot of money, cause I don't want them paying their way. I want them to be for the people, not what they can do with their money. Not what they can do for their money," Toliver said.
Other voters railed against Bloomberg for his longstanding support of the controversial "stop and frisk" policy, which disproportionately impacted minority communities. While Bloomberg has expressed remorse for some of his criminal justice record, some voters said his apology was thin.
"I've gotten a lot of grief for it lately, but I defended it for too long," Bloomberg said during a campaign stop in Richmond, Virginia in February.
"And because I didn't fully understand the unintentional pain it caused young black and brown kids and their families, I should have acted sooner and I should have stopped it, and I didn't, and I apologize for that,” he continued.
But for some voters, the apology is not enough.
"People are not stupid. I'm not stupid," Breland said when asked about Bloomberg.
"I just don't think you change your stripes just because you're running for the presidency. I think you need somebody that's gonna be real," Breland continued. "That's gonna be upfront that's been doing in their whole life. Don't come to me telling me that you changed overnight because you're running for president."