Sanders and Clinton Battle Over Minority Voters

Hillary Clinton in South Carolina. She leads by a wide margin among blacks.

Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton scramble for minority votes as Saturday’s Nevada caucus and South Carolina’s February 27 primary approach. Only 65 percent of Nevada’s Democratic electorate and 43 percent of South Carolina’s were white in 2008.

After winning New Hampshire, Sanders headed to Harlem to court support from black leaders Rev. Al Sharpton and former NAACP head Benjamin Jealous. Clinton lashed out against Sanders as too critical of African-American President Barack Obama in Thursday night’s debate

Sanders is edging in on Clinton's overall lead. Yet he has yet to make inroads into Clinton's "firewall" of minority support.

Sanders is edging in on Clinton’s overall lead. He has yet to make inroads into Clinton’s “firewall” of minority support.

A McClatchy poll from Saturday shows blacks favor Clinton over Sanders 74 percent to 19 percent in South Carolina. That is statistically unchanged from a NBC-Wall Street Journal poll from January that put Clinton ahead 74 to 17 percent among blacks. There is no reliable recent polling data from Nevada, but the political betting market gives Clinton a 58 to 42 percent overall lead. Betting on politics is legal in Nevada.

“If the elections were held today in both those states, we would lose,” Sanders said. “But I think we have momentum, I think we have a shot to win, and if we don’t win, we’ll do a lot better than people think we will.”

(Hillary has a commanding 54 point lead among black voters. The Young Turks discuss the reasons. And what Sanders can do about it.)

Sanders campaigns for black votes.

Sanders addresses a mostly black audience.

Influential African-Americans such as academic and social activist Cornel West and writer Ta-Nehisi Coates have endorsed Sanders. After meeting with Sanders on Wednesday, former NAACP head Benjamin Jealous said “there is no candidate in this race who is fiercer in standing up for those who need allies in the struggle than Bernie Sanders,” referring to disproportionate incarceration of blacks.

Sanders emphasizes his civil rights background. He attended the 1963 March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. His campaign has stepped up its activity in South Carolina over the past weeks.

Yet Clinton calls many black community leaders by name on her stops. Her connections often extend back to her husband’s 1992 presidential campaign. She has had paid staff in the state since last spring. Bryanta Maxwell, black mother, Sanders supporter, and 31 year old president of South Carolina’s Young Democrats, admits Hillary “is a brand; he isn’t.” Sanders “has to figure out a way to set himself apart.”

(Sanders asks Rev. Al Sharpton to endorse him. Blacks on the street in Harlem discuss who they support and why.)

Clinton and Sanders fight over black voters.Younger voters, minorities included, strongly favor Sanders.

Yet Clinton enjoys solid support from older minority voters who more reliably get to the polls. Many analysts refer to Clinton’s loyal support from minorities as her “firewall” against Sander’s insurgent candidacy. The Congressional Black Caucus PAC endorsed Clinton on Thursday.

Hillary hopes to use Sanders’ criticism of Obama to drive a wedge between him and black voters. 90 percent of African-Americans view the President favorably. In Thursday’s debate, Clinton drew herself closer to Obama as she repeatedly attacked Sanders. “The kind of criticism that we’ve heard from Senator Sanders about our president, I expect from Republicans.”

(Sanders supporters point out that the Black Caucus itself hasn’t yet endorsed a presidential candidate. Lobbyists dominate the Black Caucus PAC.)

Sanders has done well in the mostly white states of Iowa and New Hampshire. Yet it is crucial for him to make inroads with black and hispanic voters in Nevada, and black voters in South Carolina. If not, Clinton might put an early end to Sander’s hopes on March 1. That is when 12 states and American Samoa hold Democratic primaries or caucuses. Many of them, such as Texas and Georgia, are delegate-rich with large minority populations.


Image sources:!/img/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/article_635/na-sanders.jpg

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