Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders campaigns try to secure a key constituency
Hillary Clinton shown attending a Congressional Black Caucus Foundation awards dinner in Washington on Saturday night. Photo: Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press
CHARLESTON, S.C.—Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders are locked in an intense competition for African-American voters, among the most reliable in the Democratic Party.
Their presidential primary campaigns are canvassing black neighborhoods and aligning themselves with marquee names in the community.
Meanwhile, Vice President Joe Biden, who is mulling a late entry into the race, has begun making quiet overtures to black leaders, including a Saturday appearance at a prayer breakfast hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus.
Mr. Biden posed for photos, shook hands and was called a “longtime Congressional Black Caucus friend” by the caucus chairman, Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D., N.C.). The audience gave Mr. Biden a standing ovation.
In 2016, black voters are expected to account for about one-fifth of the Democratic primary electorate, according to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News polling analysis. Their support is particularly important in South Carolina, an early primary state where blacks account for about half of the Democratic primary electorate.
Mrs. Clinton’s numbers are dropping in Iowa and New Hampshire, leading some to suggest that she may need South Carolina to reboot her campaign. Polls show her with a commanding lead among black voters overall.
Mrs. Clinton, a former first lady, senator and secretary of state, sat at a front-row table at the black caucus foundation’s awards dinner Saturday night. She smiled as the keynote speaker, President Barack Obama, singled her out with a quip about how she could surely sympathize with first lady Michelle Obama’s lament to him: “How come you get paid and I don’t?”
Earlier in the day, Mrs. Clinton hosted a private reception for members of the black caucus, which includes 46 lawmakers.
But the prospect of Mr. Biden’s jumping into the race could scramble the equation. He has spent years building relationships in South Carolina, and people close to the vice president say they view the state as a winnable primary.