Clinton seeks rebound against Sanders at debate and beyond
WASHINGTON DC, USA – Democratic presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders clash on the national stage Thursday, February 11 as they woo minority voters, while Republican Jeb Bush is enlisting his presidential brother as he grasps for a campaign boost.
With Clinton nursing her wounds after receiving a drubbing in this week's New Hampshire primary, the former secretary of state is all too happy to turn west and south to more diverse territory in Nevada and South Carolina, states where Hispanics and African-Americans play key roles in the nomination battle.
Sanders, a US senator from Vermont, is looking to build on his stunning win by reaching out to minority groups, with whom he has struggled to build a strong support base.
He huddled Wednesday, February 10 with civil rights activist Al Sharpton, while singer-songwriter Harry Belafonte – who was close to civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr and involved in the movement – endorsed Sanders on Thursday.
Clinton is aiming to get back on track in the race – beginning with Thursday's high-stakes debate in Milwaukee, Wisconsin at 8:00 pm (0200 GMT).
She squeaked out a razor-thin, 0.3-percentage point win in last week's Iowa caucus, only to suffer a harsh 22-point blowout in New Hampshire against Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist.
Clinton will be better positioned in Nevada and then South Carolina as she seeks to profit from the coalition of black and Latino voters who helped propel Barack Obama into the White House in 2008.
But she must try to blunt Sanders's momentum without alienating the young voters, including young women, who are flocking to his "political revolution" message – or risk a devastating campaign implosion.
Peeling African-Americans away from Clinton will be crucial for Sanders, especially in South Carolina where, according to exit poll data, some 55% of Democratic voters in 2008 were black.
Thursday revealed the uphill battle ahead for Sanders, when the Congressional Black Caucus's political action committee, including a number of black lawmakers, offered a resounding and symbolically vital endorsement of Clinton.
It described her as not only the singular candidate with the experience and temperament to be president, but someone who has advocated for minority rights for decades.
"We must have a president that understands the racial divide, not someone who just acquired the knowledge recently but someone... who has lived it and worked through it down through the years," CBC chairman G.K. Butterfield told reporters.
"We need a president who doesn't simply campaign and just promise wonderful things, but things that are politically impossible to achieve," he said.
Sanders acknowledged his challenge in Nevada and South Carolina.
"If the elections were held today in both those states, we would lose," he told The Washington Post in a Wednesday interview.
"But I think we have momentum, I think we have a shot to win, and if we don't win, we'll do a lot better than people think we will."
Sanders, taking a post-New Hampshire victory lap on late-night talk shows, returned to his bread-and-butter political message, telling CBS's "Late Show with Stephen Colbert" that Americans are unhappy with the status quo and "need fundamental changes in our political system and our economic system."
Clinton has sought to define Sanders as an unrealistic ideologue, and she received a shot in the arm on that front from The Washington Post, whose Thursday editorial unfavorably linked Sanders with billionaire Donald Trump, the Republican frontrunner.
Both men, it said, are political outsiders offering "simple-sounding solutions," such as Sanders's call for higher taxes in order to offer free college and universal health care.
"We think both men are dangerously if seductively wrong in their facile diagnoses and prescriptions," the paper said.
Republicans too are turning to South Carolina, known for its bare-knuckle political brawling.
Trump and arch-conservative Senator Ted Cruz have unveiled dueling negative campaign ads against one another and are ramping up the rhetoric.
So are the more mainstream candidates – Senator Marco Rubio, Ohio Governor John Kasich who finished second in New Hampshire, and former Florida governor Bush – as they seek an avenue to victory in the state.
George W. Bush will stump for his younger brother at a Charleston rally next Monday, February 15 seeking to help shore up support in a state that Jeb sees as a lynchpin of his potential comeback.
It will be the first time that the ex-commander in chief campaigns with Jeb at a public event since he launched his presidential bid last June.
Rubio, who stumbled at the Republican debate last Saturday, February 6 and finished a disappointing fifth in New Hampshire, was seeking a reboot in South Carolina where he trained his sites on the frontrunner.
"Donald Trump has zero foreign policy experience," Rubio told a campaign crowd, adding that negotiating hotel deals with other countries "is not foreign policy." – Michael Mathes, AFP/Rappler.com