FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The heavyweights of the crowded 2016 presidential field, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Jeb Bush, laid out starkly different visions Friday for resolving the plight of black Americans, as the two appeared at the same event for the first time since they announced their runs for office.
Each came to the annual conference of the National Urban League in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to sway a crucial segment of the electorate.
Clinton is eager to maintain the enthusiasm that black voters showed President Obama when they turned out for him in record numbers, propelling him to victory in key swing states.
Bush, eager to reverse the trend, hopes to persuade black voters to rethink their traditional alliance with the left as part of his effort to widen the GOP's appeal to the minority populations that are becoming an increasingly dominant force in presidential elections.
Overshadowing the event is the sustained period of racial unrest in the U. S., sparked by the 2012 shooting death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin and propelled by other killings, including the church shootings in South Carolina.
While Florida is Bush's home state, Clinton clearly had the home-court advantage. The Clintons have deep ties in the nation's prominent civil rights groups. Even after some uncomfortable interactions with the Black Lives Matter protest movement, the former secretary of state projected a level of empathy and authenticity the other candidates had difficulty matching. She was the only speaker to receive a standing ovation.
The event afforded Clinton an opportunity to draw a sharp contrast with Bush and his oft-repeated "Right to Rise" slogan. She warned the activists at the event to be wary of "a mismatch between what some candidates say in a venue like this and what they actually do when elected."
Then, without mentioning Bush by name, she declared, "I don't think you can credibly say that everyone has a 'right to rise' and then say you are for phasing out Medicare or for repealing Obamacare. People can't rise if they can't afford health care. They can't rise if the minimum wage is too low to live on. They can't rise if their governor makes it harder to get a college education. And you cannot seriously talk about the right to rise and support laws that deny the right to vote."
For much of the speech, Clinton strayed from her usual talking points, diving deep into the challenges of being black in America.
"This is not just about statistics, as damning as they can be," Clinton said. "This is about Americans doing some soul-searching and holding ourselves to account. This is about all of us looking into our hearts and examining our assumptions and fears and asking ourselves, 'What more can I do in my life to counter hate and injustice?' "
Bush ignored Clinton's barb, declaring, "There are unjust barriers to opportunity and upward mobility in this country." He touted his record in Florida appointing black judges and boosting the number of minority-owned businesses.
He also emphasized that his economic plan, which focuses on boosting the gross domestic product, would prove more beneficial to inner cities than those pushed by Democrats, which are rooted in restructuring the economy to move more of the country's wealth to the middle class.
"Four percent growth is more enterprise in urban areas, more people moving in, a higher tax base and more revenues — in other words, a better chance to save our cities," he said. "We can do this as a country. We can grow at a pace that lifts up everybody, and there is no excuse for not trying."
Hillary's health report
Clinton's campaign released a letter Friday from her doctor attesting to her good health and fitness to serve as president based on a full medical evaluation.
The letter from Dr. Lisa Bardack summarized Clinton's history of treatment for a brain concussion, blood clots affecting her legs and brain on separate occasions, an underactive thyroid gland, and a family history of heart disease.