As the race for the White House heats up, Democratic candidates are focusing their energy on winning over one extremely important group in South Carolina–Black voters.
Unlike the previous two contests in Iowa and New Hampshire, which Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders split, South Carolina’s Democratic electorate is extremely diverse. In fact, more than 55 percent of the Palmetto State’s Dems are African Americans, and both candidates know they must win the Black vote if they want to be victorious.
Thursday, the Congressional Black Caucus Political Action Committee threw their support behind Clinton, a decision Rep. Gregory Meeks said was unanimous.
“In our deliberations we believe that the partner that the CBC PAC has had for years to elect Democrats across this country is Hillary Clinton,” Meeks said during a press conference. “Where we need someone to come to rally Democrats and especially African Americans, and at the request of the CBC PAC, Hillary Clinton has been there.”
Meeks touted Clinton’s commitment to the Black community as the reason the CBC PAC chose her over Senator Sanders.
“When the issues are important to our constituents Hillary Clinton has been there. She has been outspoken person in regards to the empowerment of Democrats and the Democratic agenda in its entirety,” he explained.
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) February 11, 2016
Not all CBC members were on board with the endorsement, however. Rep. Keith Ellison said the CBC’s Political Action Committee–a separate entity than the entire CBC–endorsed the former Secretary of State without the body’s full input.
Cong'l Black Caucus (CBC) has NOT endorsed in presidential. Separate CBCPAC endorsed withOUT input from CBC membership, including me.
— Rep. Keith Ellison (@keithellison) February 11, 2016
Though Sanders has been energizing crowds across the country and almost beat Clinton in both Iowa and New Hampshire, many pundits have called South Carolina Clinton’s firewall because of her strong showing among Black voters. A recent NBC News-Wall Street Journal-Marist poll found 74 percent of South Carolina’s Black voters supported Clinton, compared to just 17 percent for Sanders.
Still, Sanders hasn’t given up on courting Black voters. Over the past few weeks, high-profile African Americans have endorsed the Vermont Senator. So far, former NAACP President Ben Jealous, Dr. Cornell West, writer Ta-nehisi Coates, and civil rights icon and activist Harry Belafonte are all feeling the Bern.
In a video statement, Belafonte said Sanders is giving voters “a choice to turn this ship of state called America around and place it on a new course.”
While Clinton is polling ahead of Sanders in South Carolina, it’s clear Black voters, and in particular Black women, will have a considerable say in who the next Democratic nominee will be.