You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Democrats Woo Black Voters At South Carolina Forum

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 7/11/2015 Paige Lavender

ROCK HILL, S.C. (AP) — The Democratic presidential field is kicking off a weekend of wooing African-American voters in South Carolina, a critical early voting state.

Front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley were expected to speak Friday night at a televised forum hosted by Rep. James Clyburn, a prominent black lawmaker.

With her national polling numbers on the rise after a summer slump, Clinton hopes to solidify her primary edge with minority voters. She's expanding on her criminal justice policy, rolling out a series of new proposals that would reduce mandatory minimum sentencing for nonviolent drug offenders, grant greater discretion to judges and retroactively eliminate the five-year minimum sentence for possession of crack cocaine.

Sanders, meanwhile, is trying to introduce himself to Latino and African-American voters, who make up a crucial segment of the Democratic party. He's rolling out a new series of radio ads aimed at black voters in South Carolina and Spanish-language spots targeting Hispanics in Nevada.

They'll be joined at Friday's forum by O'Malley, who's struggled to gain traction in the polls.

The candidates are likely to be asked about the Keystone pipeline, a project the entire field opposes that President Barack Obama rejected earlier on Friday.

"As someone who has led the opposition to the Keystone pipeline from Day 1, I strongly applaud the president's decision to kill the project," Sanders said in a statement.

A recent poll released by CNN showed Clinton winning 80 percent of black voters in South Carolina and 71 percent of the state's Democratic primary voters overall. Black voters make up more than half of the primary vote in the state — a far larger segment in than in Iowa or New Hampshire.

The Clinton family has a long relationship with minority voters. Her husband, former President Bill Clinton, was called the country's first black president during his time in the White House. And Hillary Clinton won Latino voters by a nearly 2-to-1 margin in her 2008 primary race against the man who actually became the country's first black president, Barack Obama.

In contrast, Sanders acknowledges that he has little experience wooing minority voters as an elected official from a state that's 95 percent white, though he frequently cites his work as a civil rights activist in the 1960s.

"I'm just not well known in the African-American community," he said in an interview with NPR this week. "That's just simply the truth."

Also on HuffPost:

More from Huffington Post

The Huffington Post
The Huffington Post
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon