Clinton is speaking across the state today. She began this morning with a rally at Benedict College, a historically black school in Columbia. Race was addressed before she even took the mike. Former New York Mayor David Dinkins, accompanying Clinton this morning, admitted many people had asked him if he felt "awkward supporting Senator Clinton when a person of color is running." Dinkins reiterated the message of the three other African-Americans who provided introductions for Clinton: Voters should consider what's best for the nation before they consider a candidate's race.
"Who do you know who can do the job, instead of who you hope and dream could do the job?" Dinkins said. The phrasing was an explicit jab at Obama's campaign slogan and eerily reminiscent of Bill Clinton's accusation that Obama's unwavering stance against the Iraq war was a "fairy tale."
Dinkins explicitly invoked the former president, who just this morning was chided by the New York Times for his "overheated comments."
"We need to get back to the place we enjoyed with Bill Clinton, on the road to prosperity," Dinkins said. The sentiment seemed to be a response to the perception that Bill Clinton has lost credibility with African-Americans by attacking Obama.
The candidate herself offered a speech pitched to an audience that was two-thirds African American and (guessing by the setting of a Baptist church) likely predominately Christian. She remembered visiting a health clinic focusing on asthma, which disproportionately affects African-Americans. Clinton offered a vision of a government that is run "not just on policies and proposals, but on prayer." She touched on Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the need for universal health insurance, and caring for veterans after their return from Iraq. All of these issues are national concerns, but also resonate particularly with many African-Americans.
But not everyone in the audience read Clinton's remarks as a specific appeal to he African American community. "Absolutely not. She didn't address race," one supporter said bluntly. "This is about who can do the best job for the country at this time."