Black Democrats are closing ranks around Hillary Clinton amid growing fears that Bernie Sanders poses a real threat to her presidential candidacy.
The Congressional Black Caucus PAC this week voted to make its endorsement of Clinton official, and “more than a dozen” CBC members will be storming South Carolina later this month to stump for her ahead of the state’s Feb. 27 Democratic primary, according to CBC Chairman G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.).
Clinton leads Sanders by a wide margin in the Palmetto State, particularly among black voters. But the Vermont senator’s blowout victory in New Hampshire on Tuesday — combined with his surprisingly close finish in Iowa the week before — has some Clinton supporters concerned that she’s failing to connect with younger voters.
“There are serious concerns that the millennial gap is as wide as it is. And I would hope that over the next day or two they would figure out a strategy to address it,” Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), a CBC member and Clinton backer, said Wednesday.
But an even bigger worry for the Clinton campaign is that the former secretary of State could lose her grip on the black vote, a constituency long seen as a firewall in the primary.
It’s more than likely that today was an uncomfortable one in Hillary’s inner circle. They can talk all they want about expecting the New Hampshire primary to go the way it did but that doesn’t remove the sting, even with the way Democrats rig the delegate count. Hillary has just lost her grip on the youth vote, and women don’t like her much either. There had to have been some reasonable expectations that, after eight years, she might have become at least a little less awful on the campaign trail than she was in 2008.
As the story has been told, Bernie would get wiped out as soon as the primaries moved to a state with more African-American voters. She had a “firewall” of black support that would stop the Socialist Scamp in his money-grabbing tracks and get this coronation back on track. A little less than a month ago, however, one of South Carolina’s most prominent African-American voices, Rep. James Clyburn, hinted that her firewall may not be as invulnerable as once thought.
Hillary is in a rough spot, and, as Rick Moran pointed out here earlier, it’s Race Card time.
Here’s where it’s difficult to believe that this is a foolproof strategy. Bernie’s overwhelming strength is with young voters who are caught up in his momentum because they’re young, not because they’re young and black, young and female, young and…well, you get it. Her recent attempt at shaming female voters into supporting her by trotting out Gloria Steinem and Madeleine Albright was a spectacular failure (I’d love to know who in her camp thought getting two old ladies to yell at young women was a winning strategy). The young people who love Bernie view him as someone who is fighting the power, so bringing representatives of the power to the fight may not work. While the CBC endorsement is certain to hold a lot of sway with middle-aged and older black voters in South Carolina, there is no real reason to assume that it will resonate with younger black Democrats.
Clyburn will probably eventually be persuaded to back Hillary, but for now he’s holding out (his grandson is a Sanders supporter). The fact that he isn’t readily doing getting behind Hillary after New Hampshire may be doing some damage.
One thing we can almost be certain of in the next few days is something my colleague Scott Ott has been saying for a while: Team Clinton is going to start subtly portraying Sanders as racist.
The only question is whether they’re subtle about it or not.