He got his political start leading sit-ins during the civil rights movement of the 1960s, but Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has so far struggled to connect with black voters, the New York Times reported Wednesday. As former Vermont governor Howard Dean did during his 2004 presidential run, Sanders appears to draw much of his support from white liberals, the Times found.
Hillary Rodham Clinton is working assiduously to cement her support among black voters. In an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll this week, 95 percent of nonwhite Democratic voters said they could see themselves supporting Mrs. Clinton for the nomination in the primary. Only about one-quarter of respondents said they could see themselves voting for Mr. Sanders.
Sanders' advisers told the Times they recognize the challenge and intend to address it:
“We’re reaching out, but it’s no secret that Bernie represents a state that is heavily Caucasian, and his decades of work on issues of importance to African-Americans aren’t known amid the national conversation on race that is underway,” said Jeff Weaver, Mr. Sanders’s campaign manager. “I don’t think it’s presumptuous of him to speak out on these issues. And his message — the need for more good-paying jobs, and opening up higher education regardless of wealth and family background — will have strong appeal with African-Americans and many other voters.”
The Times didn't get every detail right. Reporters Patrick Healy and Jonathan Martin wrote that Sanders' campaign kickoff drew a mostly white audience, "many of them in tie-dyed clothes."