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US elections: Clinton, Sanders race to lock minority votes

Nevada, which is next for Democrats, is 28% Latino, 9% African-American and 8% Asian-American. The numbers for South Carolina are 28%, 5%, and 1.5%. Clinton leads Sanders in polls in both states.

world Updated: Feb 12, 2016 22:28 IST
Yashwant Raj
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton smiles as her rival Senator  Bernie Sanders answers a question during a primary debate.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton smiles as her rival Senator Bernie Sanders answers a question during a primary debate.(AP)

Wrapping up his victory speech the night of the New Hampshire primaries, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders told his supporters he was headed for New York next morning. But not to raise funds, he added.

Sanders was to meet Reverend Al Sharpton, an influential though controversial African-American activist. A picture of their meeting was front-paged in leading dailies the next day.

As the Democratic nominating process moves to demographically diverse states, Sanders and Hillary Clinton are locked in a fierce race to woo minority voters.

Nevada, which is next for Democrats, is 28% Latino, 9% African-American and 8% Asian-American. The numbers for South Carolina are 28%, 5%, and 1.5%. Clinton leads Sanders in polls in both states.

But she was quick with her pitch to African-Americans in the debate on Thursday night, making it in her opening remarks laying out her reasons for running. To knock down barriers, she said.

And among them, those faced by “African-Americans … in the job market, education, housing, and the criminal justice system”.

Her complete embrace of President Barack Obama re-essayed at the debate, while portraying Sanders as not-so-close or hostile, has been said to be propelled by the same reason.

Clinton also attacked Sanders for opposing an immigration reforms bill in 2007, which would have provided 12 million illegal immigrants, mostly Latino, a path to friendship.

Earlier the same day, Clinton received the crucial endorsement of the Congressional Black Caucus, a body of elected African-American members of the House and the Senate.

The endorsement came with a devastating refutation of Sanders’s past claims about his work for the community, delivered by John Lewis, a living legend.

“I never saw him. I never met him,” said Lewis, the only surviving member of the “Big Six” leaders of the civil rights movement that included Martin Luther King Jr.

“I was chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee for three years, from 1963 to 1966. I was involved with the sit-ins, the Freedom Rides, the March on Washington, the march from Selma to Montgomery and directed (the) voter education project for six years. But I met Hillary Clinton. I met President (Bill) Clinton.”

Clinton does have a massive lead over Sanders among African-Americans, and historically. Her husband Bill Clinton was often called the first “black” President.

But pollsters have pointed out she is vulnerable among younger African-Americans, who have the same trust issues with her as other young voters, but may eventually go with her.

That presents Sanders an opportunity. He has also picked up some crucial endorsements from African-Americans and polls show he is trailing Clinton majorly among blacks.

Clinton could win 80% of South Carolina African-Americans likely to vote in the primaries, and Sanders 15%, according to a poll published last November.