Goodbye New Hampshire: Clinton campaign moves quickly to focus on African American voters

A day after getting trounced by Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire, Hillary Clinton’s campaign moved quickly to solidify African American voters ahead of Nevada and South Carolina’s electoral contests, rolling out a series of travel plans and endorsements aimed at showing Clinton’s strength with the critical Democratic constituency.

Clinton scored a series of African-American endorsements this week, including from South Carolina House Minority Leader J. Todd Rutherford on Wednesday.

“Unlike Bernie Sanders, Hillary isn’t new to issues facing African Americans,” Rutherford said on Wednesday. “She understands the hard truths about systemic inequality that still exists in too many of our cities, which is why she’ll never stop fighting for more investments in education, health care and job opportunities.”

Clinton surrogates immediately stepped up their critiques of Sanders in the coming weeks, especially on issues that matter to African-American voters. On a conference call organized by the Clinton campaign, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries blasted Bernie Sanders record on African American issues.

Jeffries said that Sanders has been “largely missing in action” on African American issues, while Clinton was a “true friend” to the community who has been “genuine and authentic” in her advocacy on issues that matter to black voters. “He is a new arrival at the dance,” Jeffries said of Sanders. “And for many of us, there is simply no credibility for the things that are now being said at the twilight of his political career.”

Prominent black Actresses Angela Bassett and Vivica A. Fox also endorsed Clinton this week.

The pivot to African American voters officially started on Tuesday night when the former secretary of state used her concession speech to focus on fighting bigotry and racism, while also mentioning the Flint, Michigan, water crisis twice.

“We also have to break through the barriers of bigotry. African-American parents shouldn’t have to worry that their children will be harassed, humiliated, even shot because of the color of their skin,” Clinton said. “I believe so strongly that we have to keep up with every fiber of our being the argument for, the campaign for human rights. Human rights as women’s rights, human rights as gay rights, human rights as worker rights, human rights as voting rights, human rights across the board for every single American. Now, that is who I am.”

The moves are a necessary response to Sanders, who after winning in New Hampshire, immediately flew to New York to have breakfast with Rev. Al Sharpton at the iconic Sylvia’s restaurant in Harlem. Afterward, Sharpton said Sanders addressed a host of “issues that reflect the African American community,” including affirmative action, police brutality and the Flint water crisis.

Former NACCP head Benjamin Jealous, who endorsed Sanders last week, joined the breakfast.

And award-winning writer Ta-Nehisi Coates also revealed on Wednesday that he plans to vote for the Vermont senator.

As reporters filed into Clinton’s New Hampshire primary watch party Tuesday, aides unexpectedly handed out printed out press releases about African American mothers whose children have been killed by gun violence, who are campaigning for Clinton in the coming weeks and a series of endorsements in South Carolina.

Clinton will travel to South Carolina on Friday for one event and then spend Saturday and Sunday in Nevada.

Chelsea Clinton, meanwhile, will travel to Flint on Thursday. The former first daughter will meet with experts about the city’s water crisis, including Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, the woman credited with discovering the critically high lead levels in Flint’s water.

And former President Bill Clinton, a man affectionately known in the African American community as the nation’s “first black president,” will travel to Memphis, Tennessee on Thursday and South Carolina on Friday, the campaign announced.

After Clinton wrapped up her speech on Tuesday night in Hooksett, New Hampshire, she stepped off the stage and began to work the ropeline.

Clinton didn’t respond when asked if she was ready to get out of New Hampshire, instead she just offered a smile and a wave.

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