Cliff Albright sits on the stage of a dreary conference center and looks out into the crowd. He can’t believe how many people are standing up at this moment. The moderator of the panel discussion had just said that anyone who has relatives or friends who do not want to vote for Joe Biden in the fall or who is still thinking about it should stand up. Of the approximately 100 guests, only a small number remain seated. “We keep hearing that every presidential election is the most important we have ever experienced,” says activist Albright. “But this time it’s real.” Unlike the majority of event visitors here, he certainly wants to vote for Joe Biden in the fall and prevent Donald Trump from being in office again. But in Charleston, South Carolina, Albright meets compatriots who have doubts – big doubts about Joe Biden.

Almost everyone who takes part in the public conversation is black. A few days before the first official Democratic primary, they gathered to discuss what role the Black community should play in the upcoming election campaign. Albright founded the organization Black Voters Matter. He wants to draw attention to the issues that concern the black population. And make sure that as many of them as possible go to the polls. “Joe Biden can’t win without us,” says Albright. “In 2020, he only won president because of Black people in South Carolina.”

In fact, four years ago, Joe Biden experienced a kind of political resurrection in the southern state. Biden lost the first two primaries in Iowa and New Hampshire by a landslide against Bernie Sanders, and he was threatened with embarrassment and the end of his political career. But in South Carolina he won almost 50 percent of the vote with the help of blacks. Afterwards, the moderate Democrats rallied around him, Biden first became his party’s candidate and finally president. It’s true that black people saved Joe Biden back then.

In this election year he is in trouble again and needs another strong “Black Vote”. 92 percent of Black people voted for Biden in 2020, but the enthusiasm back then has evaporated. Joe Biden knows he has a difficult election year ahead of him. As the incumbent president, he is going into the primaries against insignificant rivals within the party. On Saturday he is expected to clearly win his party’s first official primary. But how does he manage to re-engage the black electorate so that large numbers of them vote for him in November? That is the real question to which Biden is seeking an answer.

Many critical questions also arise at the town hall discussion in Charleston: What has Biden done for us? Why should we vote for him even though he unilaterally supports Israel? What does he offer for the future?

The more questions are asked, the more heated the mood in the room becomes. People are supposed to defend democracy against Trump, but they see Biden less and less as their president. This lethargy is dangerous for Biden and could bring Trump back to the White House.

Albright has discussions like the one in Charleston more often. “It’s not enough to just talk about the dangers that Trump poses,” says the civil rights activist. “We need to talk about the issues that concern black people” – especially police and gun violence, the cost of housing, food, gasoline and medicine.

That’s exactly what Biden is now trying. The president recently took almost an entire weekend to appeal to the people of South Carolina, especially among blacks, who make up two-thirds of the Democratic electorate there.

After landing in the capital Columbia, the president is driven to a barbershop. Biden wears a blue sweater over his shirt; he leaves out his jacket and tie. The 81-year-old wants to come across as close to the people. A Secret Service agent asks one of the barbers who is shaving a customer’s head to put down his knife. The man looks puzzled for a moment, then sees the president and stops his work. Closeness to the people with the most powerful man in the world has certain limits. Biden shakes hands, asks how business is going, takes pictures, and we move on.

In the evening, the President gives a speech lasting almost 25 minutes – and gives an insight into how he wants to beat Donald Trump on November 4th. Biden reports on the successes he believes he has achieved over the past three years: overcoming the pandemic, stimulating the economy and launching large investment packages with which he wants to modernize the country. “Promise made, promise kept,” Biden shouts again and again. Promises made, promises kept. The hall applauds frenetically. That’s no surprise, though. The speech takes place as part of a fundraising dinner. Anyone sitting here in the audience has paid at least $150 to hear the president speak.

He also addresses Donald Trump – and puts him in line with Herbert Hoover, the 31st President of the USA, who was in office from 1929 to 1933. At the end of his presidency, the bottom line was a major loss of jobs due to the global economic crisis. Biden mocks Trump because he was the only president since Hoover who lost more jobs than were created. “Donald Hoover Trump,” he shouts to the roaring crowd. Biden later calls his predecessor a “loser.”

When it comes to Trump, Biden is aggressive and sometimes shouts into the microphone. In other parts of the speech he speaks so quietly and indistinctly that it is difficult to understand him. At one point he refers to Trump as the “sitting president” and doesn’t notice his mistake. Some anonymous accounts on social networks are making fun of the mistake. Biden is lucky the mistake doesn’t go viral.

What remains unclear that evening is his plan for another term in office. Biden announces that he wants to further reduce the prices of insulin and other drugs and forgive expensive student loans. Important points, certainly, but so far it doesn’t sound like a big agenda. Biden also has no answers for the major issues that were discussed at the citizens’ forum in Charleston. What does he want to do to make food prices bearable again? What is his answer to exorbitant rents in the metropolises? How can gun violence be curbed?

They are big questions. Joe Biden has nine months to find answers.