Bernie Sanders Talks Income Inequality at Black Churches in South Carolina

PHOTO: Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders takes a selfie with supporters after a campaign rally at the South Carolina Democratic Party headquarters in Columbia, S.C., Nov. 21, 2015. PlayChris Keane/Reuters
WATCH Bernie Sanders Takes His Message to South Carolina Churches

Bernie Sanders took his message of income inequality to black Baptist churches in North Charleston, South Carolina, today, in an attempt appeal directly to minority voters in the state.

Sanders, the only Jewish candidate in the 2016 presidential race, bowed his head and prayed, and occasionally tapped his foot and clapped to the gospel music, before addressing the congregations.

"My name is Bernie Sanders. I am a United States senator from the state of Vermont," he began at Mt. Moriah Baptist Church. "I am running for president of the United States, because I believe that in our great country we can do a lot better for working people and poor people than we are currently doing.

"I want to see the United States as a country that does not have more people in jail but has the best educated population on earth," he said.

The 74-year-old senator continues to face an uphill climb with this core Democratic constituency, but according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll released today, Sanders is seeing more and more support from minorities nationwide.

Sanders gained 16 percentage points among nonwhite voters since the last poll in October, whereas Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton lost 11 percentage points, though she still has a 2-1 lead over him with with this key group (65 percent compared to 31 percent support.)

"We think that meeting with African Americans in their place of worship is a great way for the campaign to introduce the senator to the African American community," said Chris Covert, the campaign's South Carolina state director.

In South Carolina, which has the first Democratic primary in the South, Sanders faces a unique challenge. A poll from Winthrop University released November 1 found Clinton with 80 percent of the African American vote in the state.

Still it seems the Sanders campaign is not yet folding here. They have hired dozens of community organizers and paid canvassers to target African American communities, and just last week rolled out new radio ads to target these communities as well. During his three-day swing through the state this weekend, he was often flanked by one or two African American elected official or TV personalities.

"You have to go to where the people are and in South Carolina and many communities across the country, the people are in the church," campaign spokeswoman Symone Sanders said. "We are going to reach people by meeting them where they are in their communities. For a number of African-Americans, the church is more than just a house of worship it is a place where they go to get the news most pertinent to them, discuss the issues they are facing in their neighborhoods and the catalyst for real change."

At the second church Sanders attended, Royal Missionary Baptist, he spoke with the pastor and senior leadership for about 30 minutes before the service. There he delivered his remarks from the church's main lectern, with a big, white cross behind him and his face projected on monitors.

In addition to wage inequality, Sanders focused his remarks on caring for children.

"When we are talking about the children, and I know how much you love the children and how much you do to protect the children ... I want to see excellent afterschool programs," he said.

Brenda Jenkins, a volunteer at Royal Missionary Baptist church, said she thought Sanders was "warmly received" at her church, and that she liked "everything he promised to do for America."

"I think it is helpful for congregations for the candidate to come through, for those who might miss the news or are not up on the news," she added.

Just a few days ago, Sanders was asked about his faith during a town hall in Charleston, South Carolina.

"We all believe in God in different ways. I have my way. I am Jewish and I am proud of it," he said. He was asked specifically whether he was nontheistic, to which he said, no.