Hillary Clinton courts Iowa's religious and racial minorities

Story highlights

  • Hillary Clinton is making a concerted effort to court key Iowa delegates
  • Her campaign is deploying community specific organizers to areas with that state's largest concentrations of minority voters

Waukee, Iowa (CNN)Iowa isn't known as a bastion of diversity.

But in the run up to the caucus on Monday, Hillary Clinton is making a concerted effort to court some of the state's racial and religious minorities.
    Clinton made an unexpected visit to Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church on Sunday morning, tying herself to President Barack Obama's legacy.
    And on Monday, Clinton visited the Jewish Federation of Greater Des Moines in Waukee, where the former secretary of state emphasized her ties to Israel and her skepticism of Iran.
    "I sure don't want to go back to the times when basic civil rights, voting rights, are being attacked," Clinton said to the primarily black audience on Sunday where she was joined by New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker. She also said agreeing to become Obama's secretary of state was "one of the best decisions I made, ever."
    Clinton's strategy is likely to sway only a handful of voters in a state that is over three-quarters Christian and 92% white. Iowa is roughly 3% black, according to the U.S. Census, and less than 1% Jewish, according to Pew Research. And according to 2008 exit polls, 4% of Democratic caucus-goers in 2008 were black and less than 3% were Jewish.
    But in a close caucus, which the Clinton campaign is gearing up for, those small numbers matter.
    "In both large and small caucuses, black voters can tilt the scales when the numbers are close," said Rick Wade, Obama's director of African-American outreach in 2008. "And strong black support in Iowa could affect black response and support in South Carolina and nationally."
    Wade said that Obama's Iowa operation had a very aggressive outreach strategy with black voters, visiting churches, barbershops and beauty salons up until caucus day.
    The African-American outreach is particularly important in high-density, delegate-rich counties in Des Moines, Davenport, Waterloo and Cedar Rapids. Running up the support in those areas on caucus night is a big goal because they allocate larger numbers of delegates -- therefore votes -- to the final total than smaller counties with far less population density.
    The Clinton campaign has approached outreach differently than past Democratic campaigns by deploying community specific organizers to areas with the state's largest concentrations of minority voters.
    For example, the Clinton campaign has organizers focused on African-American outreach in Waterloo, Davenport and Des Moines who are reaching out to religious and agnostic communities. These organizers are making regular stops at meetings and communal places for the campaign, and will help turn out voters from those communities on Monday.
    "It is decentralized, so people in Davenport are not calling the person in Des Moines, they have a local point person who lives in their community, and part of that staffer's organizing portfolio is to do local outreach," said Lily Adams, Clinton's Iowa spokeswoman. "That kind of outreach is integrated into the organizing program."
    Clinton has prioritized reaching out to Iowa's small Hispanic population, too. Hispanics now make up more than 5.6% of Iowa's population, according to the Census, a number that is twice as large as in 2000. The population is particularly concentrated in Des Moines, where Latinos make up 12% of the population.
    The Clinton campaign, as a way to court Latinos, has asked nontraditional organizers to get involved. In Ottumwa, a town with a small Hispanic community, a bilingual nun helps run the campaign's bilingual phone banks.