"Without question, she'll be able to win South Carolina," said South Carolina Minority Leader J. Todd Rutherford on a call with reporters on Wednesday afternoon, "with a broad base of support."
Rutherford formally offered his endorsement to Clinton earlier Wednesday at a press conference on the steps of the State House in Columbia. It was just one part of a timely push to get out ahead of Clinton's rival in the Palmetto State: the campaign also announced on Wednesday that Hillary and Bill Clinton would be visiting the state on Friday and Saturday. Other state Democrats will join the former president and Rutherford in campaigning for Clinton in the weeks to come.
Rutherford, who was joined on the call by Congressman Hakeem Jeffries and the president of the NAACP's New York State Conference, Hazel Dukes, said that Sanders has only just started to address the issues closest to the African American community, including criminal justice reform and the racial disparities in the American healthcare system.
"Secretary Clinton is the only one who will accomplish what needs to be done for the African American community," he said.
African Americans are expected to make up more than half of Democratic primary voters when the polls open on Feb. 27, and the Clinton campaign will be counting on their votes to give Clinton a needed boost and a clearer path toward the nomination.
Bernie Sanders is also reaching out African American voters. On Wednesday morning, he went to Harlem to meet with civil rights leader Al Sharpton and former NAACP president Benjamin Jealous.
The Sanders campaign has also been making a concerted effort to share Sanders' story with voters in South Carolina, as well as in Nevada and the March states, by adding staff and launching ad campaigns on television and the radio. Sanders himself often recounts his experience hearing Martin Luther King Jr. speak at the March on Washington when he was a college student at the University of Chicago, where he was also involved in fighting against housing segregation. Recent polling shows that it might be working: the latest CBS News Battleground Tracker showed him closing the gap with Clinton by 14 points in one month.
But Dukes, asked about Sanders' involvement in the march, said simply being present there does not prove Sanders' commitment to the African American community.
"I walked in Washington," she said. "Thousands of people walked in Washington."
Dukes said the contests in South Carolina and Nevada, where Democrats will caucus on February 20, will be when "America is seen in this race."
"Did you see any blacks, or anybody brown, in these two past elections?" she said. "We haven't seen America yet."
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