Yet if Harris was trying to make inroads on O’Rourke’s turf, he, too, was sending a message in the early days of his bid that he would make a concerted effort for black voters whom Harris is aggressively courting. South Carolina is a significant test of a candidate’s ability to appeal to African American voters — and Harris has made three trips there, hired four staffers in the state and weighed in on local bills to restrict guns and raise teacher pay.

This weekend it was O’Rourke’s turn: On Friday he rallied large crowd at South Carolina State University and met with a pair of prominent African-Americans in the state: Willie McLeod, a member of the “Friendship Nine” who fought against segregation in 1961 , and Steve Benjamin, the Columbia mayor and president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

O’Rourke told reporters in South Carolina that the U.S. must “account for the fact that we have continuing suppression in our economy, in our education system, in our health care system and in our democracy.” And the El Paso native reiterated his support for decriminalizing marijuana and investing in education.