Hillary Clinton made a final pitch before South Carolina begins voting on Saturday, telling an outdoor rally in the state’s capital city that she wants the results “to send a strong signal.”
Joined by her husband, Bill Clinton, the two were introduced as the 42nd and 45th presidents. Bill Clinton did the warm up for his wife, calling the visit a “bit of a homecoming” for the couple.
He noted his wife first came to South Carolina to help end the practice of putting African-American teenagers in prison with adults.
“And she’s been making things happen ever since,” he said.
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Earlier, candidate Clinton promised an audience at a historically black college in Orangeburg that she’ll preserve President Barack Obama’s legacy.
“I am a proud defender of President Obama,” Clinton told a crowd in the gymnasium at South Carolina State University, just minutes before Bernie Sanders, her Democratic primary rival, took to the stage at nearby Claflin University. “We are not going to let Republicans rip away the progress we made.”
Polls show Clinton with a wide lead over Sanders and a decisive win is likely to give her campaign momentum heading into Super Tuesday, when 12 mostly southern states and one territory vote.
She focused mostly on Republicans in a 15-minute speech.
Forty-four boys is enough. It’s time for Madam President.
At South Carolina State University, entertainer Star Jones repeated Clinton’s claim at a recent debate that being a woman means she’s not part of the political establishment.
“We have had 44 male presidents of the U.S.; that’s called establishment,” Jones said. “Forty-four boys is enough. It’s time for Madam President.”
Clinton and Sanders have made aggressive efforts to court black voters, who account for 55 percent of registered Democrats in the state. But not all students in the audience said they had made up their minds.
Jayah Washington, 21, a senior studying speech pathology, said she likes Clinton’s focus on issues important to the African-American community, including police-involved shootings and the Flint, Mich., water crisis.
But she said she was hoping to hear more from Clinton about her plans to make college affordable.
“I like Sanders talking about free tuition,” she said. “But even if he gets into office, I think it would be hard to do.”
Altovise Dent, 23, a graduate school student studying rehabilitation counseling, said she’ll vote for Clinton on Saturday, with enthusiasm.
“She was bold enough to stand up to the plate, all her life,” Dent said. “I really connect with her.”
Indeed, Clinton continues to hold a commanding lead in the South Carolina primary with most polls showing her leading Sanders by double digits. A Clemson University Palmetto Poll found her trouncing Sanders 64 percent to 14 percent among likely voters who’d cast ballots in two of the last three statewide primaries. Only 22 percent of those polled said they were still undecided.
Dora Tucker, a retired educator who lives in Columbia, was one of those.
Sitting in a folding chair at the rally in Columbia, bundled up with a scarf, she said she had followed Sanders on Facebook and liked much of what he was saying.
But she said she likes Clinton experience as Secretary of State and is convinced she’d best protect Obama’s accomplishments.
“The Republicans are out of control, they want to destroy everything he’s done,” she said of Obama. “I believe Hillary has worked so hard all these years, she’s going to do everything she can and she will carry his platform.”
An Emerson poll showed Clinton taking 71 percent of the votes among African Americans, compared to 25 percent for Sanders in a state that will be the first opportunity to determine how Clinton and Sanders will perform in states with a large African-American voting bloc.
Clinton is expected to easily beat Sanders, despite his efforts at boosting his appeal among African-Americans. An Emerson poll showed Clinton with a nearly 3-1 lead over Sanders among African-Americans, 71 percent to 25 percent.
Clinton was also to stop at Orangeburg County Solicitor David Pascoe’s annual Oyster Roast and Fish Fry at the county fairgrounds before departing for Columbia.
I love having men at my feet.
Clinton, who also sandwiched in a trip to Georgia, which votes on Tuesday, started her day in South Carolina, shaking hands and posing for selfies at Hannibal’s Kitchen, a Charleston soul food restaurant on the city’s east side that warns patrons at the door against showing “tank tops or undergarments.”
She later stopped by Saffron, a Charleston café and bakery run by Ali Rahnamoon, an Iranian immigrant who greeted her at the entrance. He said his restaurant flourished during Bill Clinton’s administration and said he plans to vote for Clinton on Saturday.
She left the café with a cup of cappuccino and two slices of Greek tort, which Rahnamoon said he gave her as a treat.
“That’s a gift for her,” he said. “She will win.”
At the café, Clinton posed for pictures with Joe Schreck, an Atlanta man who was to be married in Charleston Friday afternoon, and his 10 groomsmen, who had just arrived at the café and ordered a round of bloody Marys.
“I love having men at my feet,” Clinton joked as the men gathered around her for a photograph.
Schreck invited Clinton to his wedding, but she politely declined. He said he’s still undecided about who will get his vote when Georgia casts its ballots Tuesday, but he said he’s a big fan of Clinton, especially now.
Asked what his fiancée will say, he said: “She’ll love it!”