WASHINGTON — As the Democratic primary moves into more diverse states, three black Clinton supporters laid into Bernie Sanders' record on a conference call with reporters on Wednesday — casting the Vermont senator as a newcomer to black issues, interested now because he is running for president.
"There's simply no comparison," between the two candidates on the issues important to black voters, said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, the whip of the Congressional Black Caucus, who called Clinton a "true friend" to the black community, focusing especially on her time in the Senate and her stance on gun control.
Jeffries said that Sanders has chosen to focus on black issues now that he's running for president in the "twilight" of his political career. Sanders, Jeffries said, "has been largely missing in action."
Rep. Hazel Dukes called Sanders "absent" from the issues that matter to black voters, and when a reporter asked whether Sanders participation in the March on Washington didn't mean something, she said that thousands had walked in the march.
The Clinton campaign is in a battle for the nomination that it did not expect. The Feb. 27 Democratic primary, in which Clinton has a comfortable lead over Sanders, will be a barometer for what her national support is with black voters, who polls show currently see her as the most likely choice for the nomination.
But the operatives in Sanders camp courting the black vote are quietly confident they can close the margin in South Carolina — and elsewhere. On Wednesday, Michelle Alexander, the author of The New Jim Crow, a seminal text on the problem mass incarceration said in a post on Facebook she was endorsing the revolution behind Sanders. Ta-Nehisi Coates, the left's most widely-read intellectual and essayist said he was voting for Sanders, as did civil rights activist and entertainer Harry Belafonte.
Speaking on the hope for a turnaround, a Sanders aide on Tuesday night said, "Just wait and see."
Darren Sands is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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