Anticipating a vigorous competition for black and Hispanic votes, Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential campaign has scheduled a meeting Tuesday with some 300 “women of color” to urge them to raise money and spread the word among friends to encourage support for Clinton’s candidacy.
Organizers of the gathering, scheduled at a Washington hotel, hoped to draw an ethnically diverse group of women from business, politics and the arts. Members of Congress who have already endorsed Clinton were expected to be on hand, including Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee (news, bio, voting record) of Texas, Stephanie Tubbs Jones (news, bio, voting record) of Ohio, and Nydia Velasquez of New York. Mary Wilson, a former member of the Supremes, was also scheduled to attend; poet Maya Angelou was sending a video tribute.
The meeting was to be run by Clinton campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle and by Ann Lewis, the campaign’s director of women’s outreach. Uber-strategist Harold Ickes was also expected to attend, while campaign chairman Terry McAuliffe planned to make the fundraising pitch. Clinton was also expected to address the gathering, which was closed to press coverage.
With top rival Democrat Barack Obama (news, bio, voting record) campaigning to be the first black president, the Clinton team has moved aggressively to shore up support among minority communities, especially women.
“It’s important at this juncture for us to try and do some serious targeting,” said Reta Lewis, a former political director during President Bill Clinton’s first term. “We need to give these women a voice and show our strength.”
Lewis, who helped organize the event, acknowledged the competition for minority votes with Obama and other Democrats in the field, including New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who hopes to become the first Hispanic president. But for Lewis, the choice was simple.
“Democrats have an awesome and very diverse field, but for me the issue was leadership — someone who could take charge from day one,” she said.
Not to be undone, several Democratic candidates have worked to peel away support from Clinton among women voters, which polls indicate are her strongest constituency. Both Obama and John Edwards have launched aggressive campaigns targeting women voters, using their popular wives, Michelle Obama and Elizabeth Edwards, as prominent campaign surrogates.