Advisers to Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign team say that the Vermont independent is polling well among minority groups that backed his rival Hillary Clinton in 2016. According to campaign pollster Ben Tulchi, nearly half of Sanders support currently comes from Latinos, African Americans and women—a departure from the early days of his 2016 campaign.
“We’re starting the campaign with a base of African Americans and Latinos,” Tulchi said in a conference call with reporters on Monday.
Sanders’ campaign is investing early in a national operation and has nearly 70 staffers on the payroll, said campaign manager Faiz Shakir. And it is zeroing in on states with significant minority populations.
In South Carolina, the campaign is staffing up early and hoping to avoid a repeat of the 2016 Democratic primary. Three years ago, African American turnout propelled Hillary Clinton to a landslide victory in South Carolina, where she bested Sanders 76 percent to 26 percent.
Overall, 77 percent of black Democratic primary voters preferred Clinton over Sanders in 2016, according to CBS News polling.
The campaign is also turning an eye to early voting states such as Nevada, where Clinton edged out Sanders 52 percent to 47 percent. Staffers said Texas, where Clinton also won in a landslide by more than 30 points, is also a priority for Sanders, as is Arizona, California and Colorado.
In the week following Sanders’ announcement, the campaign raised $10 million—a number his team likes to tout. But beyond Sanders’ financial war chest, his staff points to another currency: name identification.
“He begins this race nearly universally well known,” said Tulchi, who notes that Sanders spent considerable time and effort introducing himself to voters in the early days of his first bid for president. “He emerged out of the 2016 race as one of the country’s most popular elected officials.”