Hillary Clinton’s Firewall

The conventional wisdom has said that Bernie Sanders will win the primary in New Hampshire next week, but then face problems when the race goes to states with a more diverse Democratic electorate like South Carolina and Nevada. Occasionally people have suggested that if Sanders performed well in the Iowa caucuses, he could see his support from people of color increase in the same way it did for Barack Obama in 2008.

Public Policy Polling just released the first national poll that was conducted after the Iowa caucuses. In it, Clinton maintained a 21 point lead (53/32) against Sanders. Her support among African Americans remained overwhelming (82/8) and she leads Sanders among Latinos (48/36). So the firewall seems to be holding.

As I have noted previously, this support among people of color is not something that Clinton is taking for granted. She recently met with 50 African American ministers in Philadelphia and received the endorsement of several activist DREAMers in Nevada. The man who Jonathan Capehart described as “the only person as revered by the black community as Obama and the first lady” – Eric Holder – has endorsed Clinton and her campaign is running an ad featuring him in selected states right now. Finally, here is the news from yesterday.

The Clinton campaign announced Wednesday that more than 170 prominent African American women leaders have endorsed the former Secretary of State in her bid to become the nation’s first female president.

All of these black women will rally African American voters around Clinton’s candidacy in the upcoming South Carolina primary on Feb. 27 and March primary states.

The women will serve as surrogates for Clinton, a Democrat, and according to the campaign, they will host debate watch parties, neighborhood meetings, and women-only phone banks.

The reason this is so important is because of the major role African American women have played over the last 40 years in the Democratic Party. It’s not just because of their high turnout in elections and the fact that they overwhelmingly vote for Democratic candidates.

Finally, Black women represent a significant portion of the Rising American Electorate (RAE), an estimated 115 million eligible voters – and nearly half of the electorate – composed of unmarried women, people of color, and people under 30 years old. Black women sit at the intersection of these groups, representing just over half of the 26.9 million eligible Black voters and 19% of all eligible unmarried women voters (Lake, Ulibarri, and Treptow 2013). They also represent the most active and dependable contingent of the RAE, contributing to its growing influence and playing an essential role in building coalitions across RAE groups to influence electoral outcomes in future races.

During last nights Democratic debate, Clinton said that she was working to gain the support of the coalition Barack Obama developed in his two successful presidential campaigns. That is the firewall she is now building in this primary season.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.