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Black voters weigh Biden's influence ahead of South Carolina's Democratic presidential primary

Charles E. Maxwell, is no stranger to the campaign trail rolling through his small barbershop in Charleston, South Carolina. Every four years, Democrats, eager to appeal to the state's large share of Black voters, make an appearance, Maxwell said.

"A barbershop is a Black man's country club. It's a place where we go where there's no fee associated to be a part of the club," Maxwell told ABC News as the South Carolina Democratic primary -- set for Feb. 3 -- approached. "That's the meeting place for everyone to go and to be able to connect and to unwind."

Unlike with Iowa's butter cow or New Hampshire's crowded diner, Maxwell said candidates often meet South Carolinians where they will listen: churches, barber shops and local historically Black colleges and universities.

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PHOTO: President Joe Biden greets staff and patrons at Regal Lounge, a Men's Barber and Spa, in Columbia, South Carolina, before speaking at the South Carolina's First in the Nation Dinner at the South Carolina State Fairgrounds on Jan. 27, 2024. (Kent Nishimura/AFP via Getty Images)
PHOTO: President Joe Biden greets staff and patrons at Regal Lounge, a Men's Barber and Spa, in Columbia, South Carolina, before speaking at the South Carolina's First in the Nation Dinner at the South Carolina State Fairgrounds on Jan. 27, 2024. (Kent Nishimura/AFP via Getty Images)

ABC News spoke with Black voters ahead of the South Carolina Democratic primary -- the results of which are all but a foregone conclusion.

After propelling President Joe Biden to the Democratic nomination in 2020, South Carolina was elevated by the party to the first state to award delegates in the 2024 primaries. The Democratic National Committee argued the move allows a more racially diverse group of voters to have their voices heard first -- especially compared to the overwhelmingly white states of Iowa and New Hampshire. The change also came after poor showings in Iowa and New Hampshire in 2020.

Maxwell said he would like to see Biden win another term -- a chance to deliver on his promises such as student loan forgiveness and continuing to promote better access to healthcare.

PHOTO: President Joe Biden visits Regal Lounge, a Men's Barber and Spa, in Columbia, South Carolina, before speaking at the South Carolina's First in the Nation Dinner at the South Carolina State Fairgrounds on Jan. 27, 2024. (Kent Nishimura/AFP via Getty Images)
PHOTO: President Joe Biden visits Regal Lounge, a Men's Barber and Spa, in Columbia, South Carolina, before speaking at the South Carolina's First in the Nation Dinner at the South Carolina State Fairgrounds on Jan. 27, 2024. (Kent Nishimura/AFP via Getty Images)

"We need to give him the opportunity to finish the work that he started," Maxwell said. "There's so many things that we can add and contribute that he has done that are positive within the Black community. But there's some more things that we'd like to see."

The Biden-Harris campaign claimed that it would not "parachute" into these South Carolina communities, but rather work hard to "earn" their votes. Biden made five stops in the state during his presidency -- one of them a vacation on Kiawah Island in 2022.

He began 2024 with two more campaign-related stops.

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"I want to start with a very simple message, from the bottom of my heart. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you," Biden said at a "First in the Nation" dinner hosted by the South Carolina Democratic party in January. "Donald Trump is a loser and you're the reason we're gonna win and beat him again."

Challenging Biden on the South Carolina primary ballot are Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota and author Marianne Williamson.

PHOTO: Democratic challenger U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips talks with people during the South Carolina Democratic Party First in the Nation Celebration and dinner at the state fairgrounds on Jan. 27, 2024 in Columbia, South Carolina.  (Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Democratic challenger U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips talks with people during the South Carolina Democratic Party First in the Nation Celebration and dinner at the state fairgrounds on Jan. 27, 2024 in Columbia, South Carolina. (Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

With an incumbent president running, South Carolina's Democratic primary doesn't get too much media attention. Voters tell ABC News that it's not ideal, but they'll still come out to support the president.

"I believe in competition. I think that it'd be wonderful if we had more, but because we have a really experienced candidate, who is better than them for right now?" Juanita Milton from Summerville, South Carolina, told ABC News. "If there was somebody else, they would have stepped up. Right now, this is the time for the people that we have."

Biden started his presidency with an 86 percent average approval rating among Black Americans, higher than any other racial group, according to 538’s polling average. But since early 2023, it has dropped to 60 percent, the lowest his approval rating has ever been among Black Americans during his presidency, 538's polling averages show.

Amid low polling numbers with the Black community, the South Carolina Democratic party launched the "We Go First" tour. With some 156 stops, the tour was a chance for the Biden campaign -- as well as other candidates -- to make an appeal to this often-overlooked community.

Candidates have been tailoring their message to reach out to Black audiences.

Speaking to students at the South Carolina HBCU, Morris College, Phillips shared a story about his grandfather being saved by two black soldiers during the Vietnam War.

PHOTO: President Joe Biden takes pictures with attendees as he attends the Brookland Baptist Banquet Center for their 'Sunday Lunch'  in West Columbia, South Carolina, on Jan. 28, 2024.  (Kent Nishimura/AFP via Getty Images)
PHOTO: President Joe Biden takes pictures with attendees as he attends the Brookland Baptist Banquet Center for their 'Sunday Lunch' in West Columbia, South Carolina, on Jan. 28, 2024. (Kent Nishimura/AFP via Getty Images)

At the same event, Biden surrogate, California Gov. Gavin Newsom spoke about the historic court case Loving v. Virginia, which struck down state laws banning marriage between individuals of different races. Newsom, who was born the same year as the court decision, told the audience his entire life has been "marked by progress."

But is it effective? Maxwell said he thinks it is.

"Jesus, when he ministered, he ministered among the people. He didn't speak on a level and content above their heads. He spoke in layman terms," said Maxwell. "When you look at what the campaign strategists are doing, they are reaching the people right where they are."

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But some voters said they felt like more could be done. Angela Douglas from Chester, South Carolina, told ABC News that she wishes there were more attention placed on rural voters.

"Oftentimes when we talk about Black communities, we isolate it to criminal justice, or benefits in some way. But our issues are much greater than that," Douglas said. "We're not a monolith. We also have expansive issues. So [Biden] has done quite a bit, but there's a long way to go."

Some 40,000 ballots have already been cast during early voting, according to the South Carolina Election Commission . Turnout in primaries is historically much lower than on Election Day in November. In 2020, the Democratic primary turnout was only about 16%, but that South Carolina Democratic Party officials say they are still hopeful for a high turnout.

South Carolina’s spot as "first" is not guaranteed in 2028, according to the DNC -- so state democratic party leaders said they want to make sure voters' voices are heard.

Black voters weigh Biden's influence ahead of South Carolina's Democratic presidential primary originally appeared on abcnews.go.com