Sunday, January 20, 2008

"Hillary Clinton campaigns in Harlem" (with video)

Newday, with video:
Fresh from winning Nevada caucuses with the help of Latinos, Hillary Rodham Clinton Sunday resumed her courtship of African-Americans by attending a service honoring Martin Luther King, Jr., at a prominent Harlem church. But the boos that mingled with cheers during her uptown visit underscored the tough battle she faces in wresting black voters from rival Barack Obama.
"You've come to Harlem to steal the black vote!" a small but boisterous group of Obama protesters shouted as Clinton stood outside the Abyssinian Baptist Church to receive the endorsement of its influential pastor, the Rev. Calvin O. Butts.

"Harlem for Obama!" the protesters repeated so loudly that at some points they drowned out Butts' endorsement. When Clinton passed cups of steaming coffee to the crowd on the bitterly cold day, one man shouted, "I don't want your coffee!"

"Hillary! Hillary!" a group of Clinton supporters shouted back.

As Clinton stumped in New York, Obama was visiting the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta that Martin Luther King made famous. He challenged black Americans to confront prejudices of their own as a way of honoring King's legacy. "For most of this country's history, we in the African-American community have been at the receiving end of man's inhumanity to man. And all of us understand intimately the insidious role that race still sometimes plays -- on the job, in the schools, in our health care system, and in our criminal justice system," Obama said this morning, a day after his defeat in the Nevada caucuses.

For Clinton, yesterday's Harlem visit was aimed at gaining traction as she heads into this Saturday's primary in South Carolina, where blacks are expected to represent more than half of Democratic voters.

Though Clinton handily won Nevada's Latino vote, 8 in 10 of the state's black caucus-goers backed Obama. A recent poll shows Obama leading Clinton 42-40 among blacks in New York -- a statistical tie that nevertheless underscores his surge.

Moreover, recent disparaging comments about Obama by Bill Clinton and Clinton family friend Bob Johnson, the influential founder of BET, have offended some African-Americans. Hillary Clinton also raised some eyebrows on the eve of the New Hampshire primary by suggesting that the late president Lyndon B. Johnson, rather than Martin Luther King, deserved primary credit for the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Clinton, who only last week accused Obama of fomenting criticism of her Johnson comment, denied their rivalry could create divisions within and between black and Latino voters. Obama is "an extraordinary African-American" and the Democratic Party will be "united," she said in her second New York speech in a week drawing on King's theme of racial unity.

Butts, in turn, said his endorsement of Clinton had prompted angry phone calls from some parishioners. But, he added to a crowd outside the church, "a vote for Hillary is not a vote against Barack Obama or any community, be it African-American, Latino or any other." Instead, he said, it is a vote for the candidate "who has the vision and experience to make things happen."

But during his service, Butts couldn't resist a dig at Obama. After Clinton addressed parishioners, Butts said slyly: "Uh-huh. No teleprompter there. Isn't that something? A little scrap of paper but that's all." Obama has used a teleprompter in some speeches.

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