As the unexpectedly close 2016 Democratic presidential campaign comes south, Black supporters of both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are making the case for their respective candidate.
COMPILED FROM WIRE REPORTS
MANCHESTER, N.H. – Hillary Clinton’s allies in the Black community moved aggressively Wednesday to shore up her support with Black voters following her crushing defeat in New Hampshire, as Sen. Bernie Sanders worked to win over the Black and Latino voters who will now be crucial to the outcome of their contest.
Sanders lost little time moving from his victory rally in New Hampshire to a new, more diverse arena. He headed for Harlem for breakfast with Rev. Al Sharpton. Social media was ablaze with photos of the two eating at Sylvia’s, a well-known New York soul food restaurant.
From there, he headed for ABC’s “The View,” where he shared his thoughts about police brutality with the program’s 2 million viewers.
On the attack
By mid-afternoon Wed-nesday, Clinton surrogates in the Black community were firing back, charging Sanders with inflating his civil rights credentials.
“Hillary Clinton has been a true friend to the African-American community for the last 40 years,” Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., said on a media conference call arranged by Clinton’s campaign.
“During that period of time, Bernie Sanders has been largely missing in action.”
As her supporters threw barbs, Clinton herself laid low, taking stock of the damage caused by her 22-point loss in New Hampshire and looking ahead toward a debate with Sanders Thursday night.
Yet Sanders can now boast his own support from prominent minority figures. He recently earned the endorsement of Benjamin Jealous, the former chief executive of the NAACP, who has been campaigning in South Carolina.
“You’ll see a real fight for the Black vote…The best thing for our community is for voters to really look at the records of each of these folks and to ask tough questions of the surrogates and of the candidates,” Jealous said in an interview with the Trice Edney Newswire.
“There’s a lot of folks who’ve been suggesting that the Clintons should take our vote for granted. I think you’re going to see people across the country force them to have to compete for our vote. No Black voter in the 21st century wants to feel like their vote is taken for granted.”
Jealous applauded Sanders’ 100-percent NAACP Legislative Report Card record, while describing Clinton’s record in the U.S. Senate as “complex.” Jealous said she fell short in key areas of importance to African-Americans.
“Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave us a matrix for judging the agenda of leaders: racism, militarism and greed. Bernie Sanders’ record on each of those is clear. His opposition to them, his history of fighting against them, is clear. Hillary Clinton’s record on each of those is complex and also contradictory,” Jealous said.
Jealous detailed how Clinton, on one hand, help build the Children’s Defense Fund, but later “championed the super-predator theory which said that a child at age 6 months could be a sociopath beyond redemption. And it’s only used to explain the actions of young Black men.”
On militarism, he said Clinton “opposed the war in Vietnam, but voted for the war in Iraq” – a vote that Clinton recently conceded was a “mistake” only based on information President Bush had given at the time.
As for greed, Jealous concluded, “I don’t think anybody can say…that they believe Hillary Clinton did everything she possibly can to reign in our banks and to make sure that they do not send us whirling into another recession down the road.”
Jealous said Sanders has a stellar civil rights and economic justice record.
“From his days of going to jail with the Congress of Racial Equality to speed up the integration of housing in Chicago, to supporting Jesse Jackson’s campaign for president in 1988, he is the only candidate that has a comprehensive racial justice platform today.
“Militarism? He opposed the war in Vietnam; he voted against the war in Iraq. Greed? There is no one that the greediest leaders of the greediest banks fear becoming president more than Bernie Sanders,” Jealous said.
CBC backs Clinton
The Congressional Black Caucus PAC has voted to endorse Clinton for president and will make an official endorsement Thursday (after the Florida Courier’s press time Wednesday night) CBC Chairman G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., said Wednesday.
Butterfield said at least a dozen CBC members will be campaigning on the ground in South Carolina ahead of the state’s Democratic primary on Feb. 27.
“President Obama made a very powerful argument in a way for change, and there has been change under President Obama,” Butterfield said in response to a reporter’s question about candidates who appeal to young voters.
“But what Sen. Sanders doesn’t have is the international experience, the foreign policy experience that Mrs. Clinton has,” Butterfield said. “And I believe she’s going to become more aggressive.”
Clinton has 173 congressional endorsements, including prominent CBC members like Georgia Rep. John Lewis and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker.
The next few weeks will pose a critical test for both campaigns as the competition shifts from the all-White electorates of Iowa and New Hampshire to racially diverse states whose electorates more nearly reflect the broader population. Nevada’s Democratic caucuses are on Feb. 20; South Carolina’s Democratic primary is on Feb. 27.
The Clinton campaign had long viewed Nevada and South Carolina as bulwarks that would protect them against any unexpected surge by Sanders.
In Nevada, the former secretary of state has several advantages, including long-standing ties to Latino leaders and the fact that the state’s caucuses are closed to independents, cutting Sanders off from a bloc of voters who helped him greatly in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Yet despite those facts, Sanders suddenly finds himself positioned to pose a significant threat.
On Wednesday afternoon, Sanders’ campaign announced that he had raised a record $5.2 million since the New Hampshire polls closed the night before. His campaign has been spending significantly more money on advertising in Nevada than Clinton has, and the infusion of new cash may allow him to continue to out-gun her on the air.
Competitive in S.C.
Clinton also faces a significant fight in South Carolina. Over the last 10 days, Sanders has enlisted 1,000 new volunteers in the state bringing the total number to 5,000, according to Chris Covert, the campaign’s South Carolina director. They’ve knocked on 300,000 doors.
The state’s most influential Black lawmaker, Rep. James Clyburn, told MSNBC Wednesday that Sanders, a candidate who was virtually unknown in the state only a couple of months ago, has built an impressive campaign organization in that state.
Allies of Clinton also announced that they were launching a $25 million get-out-the-vote effort aimed at Blacks and Latinos. The organization will be able to raise unlimited amounts of cash, and the head of Clinton’s biggest super PAC will be its adviser.
The organizers said their effort was aimed at turning out voters to the polls and defending voting rights, and the group will not be engaged in the primary campaign, yet the effort is also a reminder to Black and Latino voters that Clinton is in their corner.
Evan Halper and Chris Megerian of the Tribune Washington Bureau / TNS; Joey Matthews of the Richmond (Va.) Free Press; and Hazel Trice Edney of the Trice Edney Newswire all contributed to this report.