Hillary Clinton calls all hands on deck for South Carolina primaries

Hillary’s reliance on her husband’s record risks alienating young black voters

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The Independent US

After her heavy defeat at the hands of Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire, Hillary Clinton is turning to voters in South Carolina for salvation in her bid to become the Democrat nominee for president, with a message that is blunt and laden with pulpit admonition. It goes like this: “Thou shalt vote for me”.

The Clinton campaign is trying to ensure that in South Carolina, which holds its Democratic primary in two weeks, it achieves the kind of lopsided victory that Mr Sanders did in New Hampshire. It is a strategy resting on the single assumption of lingering allegiance in the black community to the Clinton name.

The stakes are indeed significant. If Ms Clinton again fails to achieve a commanding victory in caucus voting in Nevada next weekend, asserting herself in the South Carolina primaries on 27 February will turn into a vital, make-or-break mission. 

On 11 February, Congressman John Lewis, the civil rights icon, led his black colleagues on Capitol Hill in endorsing her. The super PAC aligned with her has spent its first money on radio advertising in this state. And a new television spot features an African-American Charleston pastor, the Rev Anthony Thompson, exhorting viewers to vote for Ms Clinton because of her anti-guns stance; his wife was killed in the Charleston church massacre last June.

But Ms Clinton may be miscalculating in South Carolina, says Brady Quirk-Garvan, the chairman of the Charleston County Democrats. “There is a thin line between trying to convince and motivate people that you are the right candidate, and being condescending and telling people why they should vote for you,” Mr Quirk-Garvan observed. He said that while Ms Clinton may cite the record of her husband to demand their loyalty, younger black people have little memory of his time in office.

“Every generation wants to come into their own, and having an older generation telling you what to think and what to do has never been a great strategy,” Mr Quirk-Garvan said.

“I’m torn,” admitted Kia Williams, 33, a primary-school teacher, who noted that the grant she received to go into higher education came from a programme introduced by Mr Clinton. Her mother is fiercely pro-Hillary, but Ms Williams was impressed at a Sanders rally here a few weeks ago. “I feel like he has some great ideas.” 

Bernie Sanders inflicted a heavy defeat on Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire (Reuters)

Her friend Antoine Caldwell, 34, who coaches teachers, is also under pressure to back Ms Clinton. “The old guard are finger-wagging at us saying that [Mr Sanders] isn’t really a Democrat,” he complained. “But people don’t like to be told what to do. ”

Mr Quirk-Garvan noted the huge influx new residents into the region from the north-eastern US, many of them white and likely to be more familiar with Mr Sanders. While black voters normally account for up to 50 per cent of primary voters, it is unlikely they will turn out in the numbers they did in 2008 for Barack Obama.

“If half the number show up, which would be very low, that could be very troubling for the Clinton campaign,” Mr Quirk-Garvan argued.