On Monday, South Carolina’s Rep. James Clyburn hosted a “call to action” conversation in Jacksonville with supporters of Hillary Clinton.
Clyburn was last in Jacksonville in 2015, campaigning for a protege — former Mayor Alvin Brown — in a campaign that saw the mayor’s re-election thwarted by an enthusiasm gap in the base.
Clyburn is conscious of similar gaps for Clinton, which he attributes to a bruising primary and to a heavily motivated Donald Trump base.
The South Carolina congressman noted positive auguries for Clinton, such as USA Today’s editorial making the case against Trump, and Republican newspapers endorsing Clinton.
Another positive sign: Trump’s tax issues, which Clyburn likened to Watergate in terms of the magnitude of the scandal.
However, despite the case against Trump being made, the “campaign is too close” because the campaign has “not done a good enough job telling people why they should vote for Hillary Clinton.”
Clyburn compared Clinton to 1988 nominee Michael Dukakis. He, too, came out of the Democratic convention with a two-digit lead but ended up “defined by the Willie Horton ad,” which “came out of the Democratic primary,” where Al Gore used it.
Republican operative Lee Atwater refined and rebooted it, said Clyburn, and “that spelled doom for Dukakis.”
Clyburn noted the generation gap in the Democratic primary, insisting the Clinton campaign “cannot allow this campaign of Hillary Clinton to be defined by the primary.”
“The millennials are crying out for guidance from us,” Clyburn said to a largely over-50 crowd in Jacksonville comprised of elected leaders and party activists.
Clyburn believes that on issues such as criminal justice reform and infrastructure renewal, Clinton’s platform is stronger than Trump’s.
However, engaging the millennials for Clinton is far from a done deal, and is necessary, given that Trump’s support is strong and in hard-to-gauge areas.
Clyburn spoke of driving up U.S. Highway 52 in South Carolina, “seeing Trump signs everywhere … every now and then Confederate flags.”
Trump’s GOTV campaign is, said Clyburn, “on the back roads” in South Carolina and other battleground states, with “field officers” poised to turn the vote out.
Clyburn noted on occasion that Clinton could do a better job choosing her words, including her reference to half of Trump’s supporters as a “basket of deplorables.”
“She should have said a lot of deplorables,” Clyburn said, referencing David Duke and “white nationalists” as filling the bill.
Clyburn noted that when Trump says he’s a “law-and-order guy,” that’s a “code word for deplorables.”