John Legend took to the campaign trail for Elizabeth Warren on Wednesday, telling a crowd of about 500 people at South Carolina State University that he had not planned to endorse in the primary but “it became abundantly clear the one candidate stood out from the rest.”
“We depend on our leaders to listen to us,” Legend said. “The best leaders in a democracy are more than just smart. the best leaders in a democracy have empathy.”
Instead of Warren doing a signature selfie line, she enlisted Legend to perform at a grand piano. Before a large American flag, He sang Ordinary People and All of Me, with many in the audience singing along.
His appearance at the MLK Auditorium on the Orangeburg, SC, campus came just a day after the Democratic debate, where Warren continued her attacks on Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire who already has spent more than $500 million in the race.
Legend made a reference to Bloomberg, telling the crowd, “Unlike Mayor Bloomberg, [Warren] knows that housing discrimination through redlining is a national tragedy.”
He also credited Warren for not drawing on high dollar fundraisers to finance her campaign.
“She doesn’t spend time wining and dining billionaires hoping they will donate to her campaign,” Legend said, adding that she instead has depended on small-dollar contributions.
Legend ran through some of Warren’s policy proposals, including Medicare for All and free public college education. He said that they tied together as a way to address “the most important issue of our time — the pursuit of equal opportunity.”
He also gave Warren credit for her proposals on criminal justice reform, which has been one of his chief causes. He drew loud applause when he mentioned her proposals to legalize marijuana and to “undue the legacy of the war on drugs.”
“None of these plans mean anything if you don’t have the persistence, the passion and the wherewithal to get them done,” Legend said.
Warren is hoping for an improved showing in South Carolina, which votes on Saturday, after trailing in the Nevada caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. She had a breakout performance at last week’s debate in Las Vegas, marked by her confrontations with Bloomberg.
Other campaigns also are highlighting celebrity support in South Carolina, where African Americans make up a large share of the Democratic vote. On Thursday, Joe Biden plans to campaign with Vivica Fox. Pete Buttigieg’s campaign sent out a People story on Lee Daniels’ endorsement.
Legend said that his intention was to publicly stay out of the primary, with the idea that he would “work my butt off to make sure Trump was a one-term president.” But that changed after watching Warren at the debates and in other venues.
“As much as I wanted to publicly stay out of it, it became abundantly clear the one candidate stood out from the rest,” he said.
Legend has been a biting Trump critic on Twitter, and Trump has attacked the singer-songwriter and his wife, Chrissy Teigen.
“Wouldn’t it be so refreshing to have a woman of Senator Warren’s brilliance replacing him?” Legend said.
After Legend performed, Warren grabbed him and they returned to the stage. “This is what we can do together — dream big, fight hard, let’s win.”