Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has lost out on a key endorsement in Iowa to rival Hillary Clinton.
Former liberal Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin announced his support for Clinton, the former first lady, secretary of state and New York senator, in an op-ed published Thursday by the Des Moines Register.
As The Associated Press reported, Harkin called Clinton a “fighter who has a record of getting things done.” He went on to note that Clinton “has devoted her career to championing the needs of children” and been a “tireless advocate for women and families.”
The Harkin endorsement of Clinton comes as Sanders’ surge in Iowa has appeared to slow. An average of recent Iowa polls calculated by realclearpolitics.com shows Clinton’s support in Iowa at 55 percent. Sanders, meanwhile, is averaging 19.4 percent. That’s a spread of 35.6 percentage points.
The polling average pegs Vice President Joe Biden’s support at 12.3 percent. Biden has not announced a run, but is said to be seriously considering his options. Many pundits believe that Biden’s entrance into the Democratic Party’s primary would siphon more votes from Clinton than Sanders.
The AP noted that Clinton has boosted her campaign resources in Iowa in an effort thwart Sanders, who continues to attract large crowds in the Hawkeye State and around the country. A recent Franklin Pierce University/Boston Herald poll in New Hampshire showed Sanders surpassing Clinton for the first time 44 percent to 37 percent, but within the poll’s margin of error.
Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, is planning to take his campaign to South Carolina on two-day swing. He has scheduled two events Friday, Aug. 21, in Greenville and Columbia. He will hold two more events Saturday in Sumter and Charleston.
For Sanders, it will be a chance to connect with African-American voters, a demographic he has struggled with. About 30 percent of South Carolina’s 4.7 million residents are African-American.
Polling has showed that Sanders has struggled to attract support among African-American voters. And he has had well-documented run-ins with Black Lives Matter supporters who have disrupted some of his campaign appearances.
Sanders has made efforts to recover. He recently launched a “Racial Justice” tab on the issues section of his campaign website. And he has hired Symone Sanders, a criminal justice advocate and Black Lives Matter supporter, as his national press secretary. But Sanders must attract more support from minority voters if he is to succeed in South Carolina’s early primary, and in other states with large minority populations.
Symone Sanders, no relation to the candidate, has urged Sanders to present a more contemporary message about his efforts to address racial inequality. Voters, she has said, are no longer satisfied that he once marched with Martin Luther King Jr. Sanders has focused on income inequality as the key to improving race relations in the U.S., a message Black Lives Matter have indicated is not sufficient.
Symone Sanders told Vermont Public Radio’s Alex Keefe last week that her hiring was based on Sanders’ seeking “a diverse pool of talent of people who do good work.” She defended Sanders’ record on racial issues and said the senator will continue to address it.
“He’s always been right on these issues but now he’s talking about them even more,” she said. “While he’s definitely talked about economic inequality, the wage gap and the wealth gap in the country, he’s also hitting on the things that are plaguing our criminal justice system.”
Sanders, normally serious and stern-sounding on the campaign trail as he speaks to voters, flashed a bit of his humor Saturday at the Iowa State Fair. Candidates descended on the fair to campaign, including Republican frontrunner and billionaire Donald Trump.
Upon seeing Trump’s trademark chopper hovering overhead as he offered free rides to fair-goers, Sanders couldn’t resist a joke.
“I apologize — we left the helicopter at home,” he said.