- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 21, 2019

GREENWOOD, S.C. — Joseph R. Biden says he’s the guy who can rebuild President Barack Obama’s winning coalition in 2020 — but he has yet to reach out to a key South Carolina supporter who literally “fired up” Mr. Obama’s 2008 bid.

Edith S. Childs, whose “Fired Up — Ready to Go!” call-and-response chant became a mantra for then-candidate Obama in his first run and again in his 2012 reelection, said she’s surprised she hasn’t heard from Mr. Biden as the former vice president campaigns in her home town.

“I would love if Joe Biden called,” she told The Washington Times. “I would think if I was going to run, if I had been vice president, I would grab that person that helped the president, you know what I am saying?”

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“He was President Obama’s vice president, so there is no way he doesn’t know Edith Childs from some way,” she said. “Maybe they don’t feel like they need Edith Childs and that is OK.”

It’s a question likely being asked in a number of corners of the Democratic electorate, where all sides agree the path to victory next year involves recreating Mr. Obama’s coalition of minority, young and women voters.

At this week’s presidential debate in Atlanta, the candidates competed over who had the best credentials to do just that.

But none have personally reached out to Ms. Childs.

She has received campaign flyers and did say she got an inquiry from someone affiliated with Sen. Bernard Sanders’ campaign that said — in her words — something along the lines of “Mrs. Childs, we got to have you.”

Ms. Childs became a celebrity among the Obama faithful after her role in rescuing what had been shaping up as a disastrous campaign stop here in 2007, on a rainy day and in front of a disappointingly small crowd. The diminutive black woman in a church hat called from the back of the room “Fired up!” then “Ready to go!” — and Mr. Obama said it was infectious.

“I’m standing there and I’m thinking, ‘she’s stealing my thunder,’ ” Mr. Obama said at a campaign rally on the eve of the 2008 election. “After a minute or so I’m feeling kind of fired up. I’m feeling ready to go.”

The president kept in touch with Ms. Childs over his eight years in office and used her story on the campaign trail. She received invitations to the White House for holiday parties, phone calls when the president visited South Carolina and was seated in former first lady Michelle Obama’s guest box, alongside Jill Biden, at Mr. Obama’s final State of the Union address.

As she surveys the field looking for a successor to Mr. Obama, Mrs. Childs says that’s not likely to be Mr. Sanders of Vermont or Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

What she really hopes is to be wooed by Mr. Biden, and given the chance to share her thoughts on how to bolster his bid.

“He is not too far out left that he can’t get back in the middle,” Mrs. Childs said. “He is not like Bernie and Elizabeth Warren. Even though they have good intentions, they are just too far out.”

In an interview with The Times, she opined on the state of the party, saying Mr. Obama got it right last week when he warned that Democrats must avoid swinging too far to the left and need to offer a vision “rooted in reality” to reach average voters who don’t want to “tear down the system.”

She said she is baffled by candidates promising all this “new stuff,” such as the push for a “Medicare for All” government-run health system and free college tuition.

“‘OK, all children are going to school tuition-free? Are they going to appreciate that? No,” she said, repeatedly questioning how colleges could stay financially afloat without charging students.

“I want to work for what I get, don’t give me these hand-me-downs,” she said. “I am not saying there is some people who won’t take advantage of it and do a good job at it, but when you give something to all the people they really don’t care about it. They would rather work for it, you know what I mean?”

Ms. Childs said some candidates seem to be too caught up in creating their own legacy.

“Sometimes you have to tap into somebody else’s legacy to make it move forward and make it better,” she said. “But they don’t see that.”

Her comments challenge the prevailing sentiment on the left, where Democratic activists say the country is ready for an upheaval along the lines of what Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders are proposing.

Mrs. Childs said she’s been on the front lines driving people to get them signed up for Obamacare, and it’s taught her that Medicare for All is not a winner because it will mean forcing people to change from the insurance they have now.

“If you haven’t been out there, been-there, done-that, then you wouldn’t know, but I know — and how you just going to take insurance from people who like what they got?” she said.

“Anybody with common sense, with just a little bit of common sense, you know you are not going to redo everything all over,” she said. “So what you do, you work on what you have, and make it better.”

She said she’s hoping Mr. Biden, who has suffered a series of campaign stumbles and seemed at times every bit his 77 years of age, can get his act together.

But she also could envision supporting Sen. Amy Klobuchar, describing the Minnesota Democrat as “down-to-earth,” or Sens. Kamala D. Harris of California and Cory A. Booker of New Jersey.

She said she likes South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, but said his homosexuality could make it tough for him to win over South Carolina voters.

“I think he would be good, but I don’t know if he will be accepted by people because of who he is, his lifestyle,” she said, stressing she believes that people should love who they want to love. “But black folk have a real problem with homosexual people.”

While she’s waiting for calls from the candidates, she’s working with a musically inclined friend in New Jersey on a new chant for the 2020 election.

“I just have to sit down long enough to do it, but it will be something like ‘We’re Ready! We In It to Win It!” Mrs. Childs said. “Something like that, but I got to sit down and get the words together.”

“I would love to attach the new one to Joe Biden,” she said. “But it won’t be Fired Up — Ready to Go!”

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