A review of public polling and interviews with black strategists, activists and Democratic officials explains why African American voters have largely gotten behind non-black candidates: a medley of concerns about Harris’ and Booker’s electability, their authenticity and their campaign styles, all of which prevented them from effectively challenging Biden’s enduring — and, to some, surprising — strength among African Americans.

“The affinity voters in these groups feel for Joe Biden is deep and strong, rooted in his relationship with Barack Obama, who is the ultimate validator,” Buttigieg pollster Katie Connelly wrote in a July report, obtained this fall by McClatchy, that garnered attention for probing how Buttigieg’s sexual orientation was affecting his chase for African American voters. “The power of the Obama association with these voters” was paramount, Connelly added…

“If Cory weren’t in the race, I probably would’ve selected her,” Hattie McDaniel, a South Carolina state representative supporting Booker, said of Harris in an interview. But McDaniel added that she “couldn’t find that true connection” to “the struggles that I had to go through to get to where I am … I saw more in Cory than her.”

Harris’ record as a prosecutor — which she pitched as a strength in a potential matchup with Donald Trump in the general election, but swung back and forth between emphasizing and deemphasizing as her campaign went on — also bothered some black voters, especially black men.