Few moments have been more awkward for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign than the day he announced 100 black pastors would travel to New York City to endorse him, only for several of those pastors to say they’d never met Trump, would not meet with him, and never would endorse him.
On Saturday, one of the Trump abstainers, Bishop Corletta Vaughn, did endorse for president, but this time for Hillary Clinton.
“Trump did not speak to what our community’s issues are. I’m not interested in the border. I’m not interested in in immigration,” Bishop Vaughn told the Daily Beast in an interview Saturday. “I don’t hear it from Bernie Sanders, who talks about Wall Street and banks. I heard it from Secretary Clinton.”
Vaughn was among the group of 50 black pastors invited to meet privately with Clinton met in Philadelphia early this week. She said the group discussed equal pay, education, criminal justice reform, and the Flint water crisis, which is of particular importance to Vaughn, who is from Detroit. After the meeting, she said the group also prayed together with Clinton.
“There was no press, no publicity, no flier. There was a private conversation between a concerned candidate and clergy,” Vaughn said, comparing the meeting to the Trump fiasco with pastors. “I like that. That’s a lady’s approach. She caught my ear and she caught heart.”
The Clinton campaign released Vaughn’s name as a part of an endorsement from 28 high-profile African American pastors on Saturday. Among them were civil rights leaders and longtime elders in the AME church, including Dr. Raphael Warnock, the senior pastor at Atlanta’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, and Rev. Cromwell Handy, from Montgomery's Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, and Rev. Otis Moss, Jr..
The pastors' endorsements came two days before the Iowa caucuses and three weeks before the South Carolina Democratic primary. While recent polls show Clinton even or trailing Sanders in Iowa and losing to him in New Hampshire, Clinton remains well ahead of Sanders in South Carolina and much of the South, where African American voters can make up more than 50% of the Democratic primary electorate.
The support of pastors like Warnock, Handy and Moss will be invaluable to Clinton’s campaign as it works to slow Sanders’ momentum. Maybe even more important will be the vocal endorsements of women like Vaughn, who speak to a side of Hillary Clinton few voters have seen.
“I really do think she’s the right candidate for me and for my community,” Vaughn said. “She doesn’t just speak. You feel her. It’s time for America to have a mother. We need healing.”