On the verge of a major loss to Hillary Clinton in the South Carolina primary Saturday, Sen. Bernard Sanders on Tuesday night appealed to African-American voters in the state by promising to ramp up funding for historically black colleges and universities if elected president.
At a CNN town hall in Columbia, Mr. Sanders — who is losing black voters to Mrs. Clinton by a three-to-one margin — denied that his broader plan to make public colleges tuition free would hurt private historically black institutions.
“I believe that historically black colleges and universities plan an incredibly important role in the African-American community … we should make sure that public colleges and universities are tuition free, that everybody in this country who has the ability and the desire can get a college education,” the Vermont senator said. “But, in addition to that, we must sustain and strengthen the historically black colleges and universities who do a phenomenal job today educating a significant number of young African-Americans. You have my word that we will not only sustain, we will substantially increase funding for the historically black colleges and universities.”
At last week’s Nevada caucuses, Mr. Sanders was defeated soundly by Mrs. Clinton among African-American voters. The former secretary of state captured 76 of the black vote in Saturday’s caucuses, propelling her to a six-point win overall.
Unless he breaks through with African-American voters, Mr. Sanders’ future prospects appear dim, as the Democratic presidential primary heads to southern states such as South Carolina on Saturday and Texas, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Alabama on March 1.
Still, Mr. Sanders believes it’s simply a matter of getting his message out.
“We’ve got a plan to invest in jobs and education, not jails and incarceration, and we have very specific ideas about how the federal government … can play a major role in ending the militarization of so many of our local police departments,” he said. “And we also have to make police departments look like the diversity of the communities they are serving.”