Clinton to boost campaign with focus on blacks

Lisa Lerer
Associated Press

Milwaukee – — After an overwhelming loss in New Hampshire, Hillary Clinton is staking a campaign comeback on her ability to woo black and Latino voters, placing outreach to those communities at the center of her strategy to re-energize her 2016 bid.

The 22-point loss to rival Bernie Sanders in this week’s primary heightened concerns among Democrats that Clinton’s message is failing to win over both women and young voters — two key parts of the coalition that twice elected Barack Obama to the White House.

The New Hampshire defeat, along with Clinton’s razor-thin win in the leadoff Iowa caucuses, raised the stakes for Clinton to rally minority voters — another pillar of the Obama coalition — in the contests coming up in Nevada and South Carolina.

As the contest fans out across the country, Clinton’s campaign is casting her as a stalwart advocate for racial justice, tracing back to her days working for the Children’s Defense Fund in the 1970s. She will tie her future even closer to Obama, a deeply beloved figure among black Americans.

Clinton also plans to intensify her focus on issues of importance to minority voters, such as immigration, civil rights and gun control, dispatching African-American supporters to make her case and launching a flurry of attacks to undermine any credibility Sanders may be building within the black community.

Clinton picked up the endorsement of Congressional Black Caucus political action committee on Thursday as she and Sanders angle for minority voters ahead of the Nevada caucus and a slate of Southern primaries that will give minority voters their first say in the nominating contest.

Civil rights leader John Lewis says he never saw, nor met, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders during his work for racial justice in the 1960s.

The Georgia Democrat told reporters at a news conference Thursday that he was involved in the sit-ins, the Freedom Rides, the March on Washington and the march from Selma to Montgomery. Lewis said he also chaired the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee for three years.

Asked about Sanders, who said he attended the 1963 March on Washington, Lewis said, “I never saw him. I never met him.”

On his campaign website, Sanders says he has a long history of fighting for the rights of black Americans, including time as a student leader of the Congress of Racial Equality. He also said he was arrested for protesting segregation.

Focus-group surveys conducted by Clinton’s campaign with undecided black voters in Charleston found that the former secretary of state has retained a high degree of trust with African-Americans, even as her numbers on trust and honesty have declined overall, according to aides.

While the voters were open to Sanders and liked his economic message, their views shifted after hearing about his plans to replace the Affordable Care Act with a single-payer health care system and his past opposition to gun control measures, the aides said.

“One candidate voted to give immunity to the gun manufacturers and opposed the Brady bill. … I can’t get past that,” said Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., on Thursday as the Congressional Black Caucus’ political action committee endorsed Clinton.