With eyes on Nevada, Clinton and Sanders duel at church

Sanders supporter: "Single-issue" criticism not true
Sanders supporter: "Single-issue" criticism not true

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Sanders supporter: "Single-issue" criticism not true 04:52

Story highlights

  • Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders attended the same church Sunday
  • Clinton and Sanders courted African American voters with similar but opposing messages

Las Vegas (CNN)Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, both hoping to win over Nevada's African-American electorate ahead of this week's presidential caucus, attended an aptly named house of worship on Sunday: Victory Missionary Baptist Church.

Seated on opposing sides of the warm red sanctuary, Clinton and Sanders courted African-American voters with similar but opposing messages. While Sanders focused on criminal justice reform and economic policy that would punish billionaires and the top 1% of earners, Clinton trained some of her rhetoric on the man she is running against.
"I am not a single issue candidate and this is not a single issue country," Clinton said, a comment that is squared directly at Sanders. "Because if we were going to achieve everything about banks and money and politics, would that end racism? Would that make it automatically going to happen that people will be able to get the jobs they deserve, the housing the need, the education their children should have?"
    Sanders, for his part, spoke about an array of issues during a similarly short speech and did not mention Clinton.
    "Some of us believe that what God teaches us what this world is about is that we do not turn our backs on our brothers or our sisters," Sanders said. "Essentially, we are in this together."
    He added, "We cannot as a nation turn out back on the reality that we have more people in jail today than any other country on earth."
    Both Clinton and Sanders, though differing in their tactics, tied themselves to President Barack Obama.
    "We have to be focused on doing everything we can to build on the progress that President Obama has made," Clinton said. "It will not surprise you to hear me say that I was deeply honored when he asked me to be secretary of state. We were partners and we became friends. And I know how hard he worked against implacable hostility at every single turn."
    Sanders, after talking about the "real unemployment rate" and "greed," localized his overtures to Obama by noting the way the 2008 recession decimated Nevada's housing and employment market.
    "Over the last seven years in this country, we have made enormous progress under the leadership of President Obama and Vice President Biden," Sanders said. "No state in America knows more about the impact of the greed and illegal behavior of Wall Street than the state of Nevada. This state was decimated. We have made great progress but much more needs to be done."
    Neither candidate directly acknowledged each other in their remarks nor did the candidates chat after the church service, according to their spokesmen. Clinton stayed for the entire service and Sanders left early, heading to a rally at a nearby high school.
    Pastor Robert E. Fowler thanked both the candidate for coming, noting that he was "encouraged by the fact that they are willing to sit in the same church, same service, same time." After both candidates spoke, Fowler asked Sanders and Clinton to stand as the congregants prayed for them.
    Clinton was introduced at church by Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights icon who has recently taken a stepped-up role in the former secretary of state's campaign. Lewis last week questioned Sanders' role in the civil rights movement, a charge he later had to walk back.
    "I am not here to talk about my involvement in the American civil rights movements," Lewis said, noting that he is here to introduce "my beloved sister who I have known for so many years."
    "The vote is powerful, it is precious, it is the most powerful nonviolent tool in the democratic society and we must use it," Lewis added.
    Nevada's caucuses have increased in importance for the Clinton campaign, especially after Sanders handily defeated Clinton in New Hampshire last Tuesday.
    Clinton's campaign had long said the Nevada would be a state where they could perform well, but her aides are now lowering expectations.
    African Americans are the largest second largest racial minority in the state at 9.1%, after Latinos. African American voters also made up 15% of the Democratic caucus electorate in 2008.