Southern states like South Carolina, where Hillary Clinton has held as much as a 30-point lead over Bernie Sanders, are thought to be crucial in securing the Democratic nomination for the former secretary of state. These states have large African American populations, among whom Clinton is far more popular than Sanders.
But, with the Vermont senator gaining momentum with his surprisingly energetic campaign, there is a path for him to win the south -- and it goes through African American union leaders.
"I always like when they underestimate the African American community because on this one we are gonna rise to the occasion," Charles Vance tells me over the phone while on break from his job on the docks in Charleston, South Carolina.
Polling shows that Clinton has a 74% to 14% lead among African American voters over Sanders in South Carolina. Vance says that while organized labor represents only 3% of the workforce in South Carolina, that many key labor leaders, particularly in the African American community, could play crucial roles in organizing on Sanders' behalf.
The support of key African American union leaders played an important role in Clinton's narrow victory in Iowa, where union households made up 21% of the electorate and voted for Hillary by 52%-to-43% margin. Lee Saunders, the first African American elected to head the nation's largest public sector union, the 1.4 million member American Federation of State, County, and Municipal employees (AFSCME), was quick to claim credit for his role in the victory, pointing out that his union knocked on more than 8,000 doors and conducted 11,000 member-to-member meetings on Clinton's behalf.