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Clinton Campaign Must Turn to Winning Sanders-Backing Latinos

Image: Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton addressed her supporters at the Brooklyn Navy Yard on Tuesday. PETER FOLEY / EPA

Hillary Clinton's capped her historic victory as the presumptive Democratic nominee with a win in California, but she'll have to quickly turn to a new mission of uniting her party and win over voters who backed Bernie Sanders, including many young Latino Democrats.

"A good night. A really good night," tweeted Clinton's national political director, Amanda Rentería, who posted photos of the Brooklyn site where Clinton gave her historic speech to thousands of supporters as the first female presidential candidate on a major party's ticket.

Clinton: I Wish My Mom Could See Me Tonight 0:27

Democratic strategist and Clinton adviser Maria Cardona said the election has shown that Latino voters have been and are going be to important to the entire 2016 election. Hispanic voters have demonstrated that they do support Clinton in vast numbers, Cardona said.

"Yes, Latino millennials have by and large supported Bernie Sanders and I think that is going to be an electorate critical for her to target and to make sure she reaches out to," she said. Cardona said Clinton will do so with her positions on college affordability, making sure they are able to get a job when they graduate and making sure they are not drowning in debt, among other issues.

"All are issues she will be championing. She will be talking to these millennials — talking to them day in and day out to assure Bernie supporters that she will be with them and together they can go to the general election and make sure they defeat Donald Trump," Cardona said.

Chuck Rocha, a political strategist hired by the Sanders campaign, said Sanders energized and "teed up" young Latinos, and it's up to the Clinton and Democratic Senate campaigns and to follow through.

"The Latino population is younger than every other ethnic makeup in America. Figuring out the way to engage them and keep them engaged not just for the presidential election but for these hypercritical races in heavily Latino states - Florida, Colorado and Nevada - is critical to the Democratic party," Rocha said. "We can't win back the Senate without these young Latinos engaging in these three states."

Clinton dedicated a good portion of her victory speech to having reached this major milestone for women, including a video that preceded her speech focusing on the struggle of women throughout the centuries and some of the women who fought for it. The video included a clip of civil rights and labor activist Dolores Huerta shouting "Sí, se puede."

She wasted little time making the speech about the general election by turning her attention to Trump. She included in her speech mention of the rhetoric that has been galvanizing Latinos by calling for building bridges, "not walls."

Trump, she said, is temperamentally unfit to be president and commander in chief, and added.

"He's not just trying to build a wall between America and Mexico, he's trying to wall off Americans from each other. When he says, 'Let's Make America Great Again,' that is code for let's take America backwards," she said.

Clinton touched on his recent attacks on a U.S. federal judge who is presiding over a class-action lawsuit against Trump University. Trump referred to him as "Mexican" and has said the judge, Gonzalo Curiel, couldn't be fair because of his heritage. Curiel is Mexican American and was born in Indiana.

"When Trump says a distinguished judge born in Indiana can't do his job because of his Mexican heritage or he mocks reporters with disabilities or calls women pigs, it goes against everything we stand for because we want an America where everyone is treated with respect and where their work is valued," Clinton said, with the audience booing each reference to Trump's antics.

Clinton has faced a challenge and likely will continue to in persuading some of her young Latino critics that she is the best candidate on issues such as the economy, the cost of higher education and immigration reform. Many of the young Latinos who voted for Sanders have been critical of the Obama administration's deportation policies that have led to hundreds of thousands of deportations of Latinos.

Some young Latino activists have been unforgiving of Clinton's views on Central American children before she officially announced, when she backed the administration policy of returning many of them to deter other migrants from making the trip and to show that arrival at the border does not lead to automatic release in the U.S.

Clinton's position has evolved since last year. Her platform includes supporting an end to family detentions and private immigration detention centers, pledging not to deport families already in the U.S. and advocating for procedures for asylum that many of the Central American children and families seek upon arriving at the border.

Cardona said Clinton will talk to millennial Latinos about her overall stance on immigration and aim to go further on the use of executive powers to shield more immigrants from deportation. Many young immigrants have wanted protection for parents of children who entered or stayed illegally in the U.S. and are themselves without legal status. Clinton will focus on getting to a solution rather than on things said in the past, she said.

Cardona said Clinton will push for immigration reform legislation, adding "she has proven she can work with sensible Republicans."

Sanders on Tuesday was pledging to continue the fight, complicating her campaigns effort to win over Latino voters, which are 44 percent of all eligible Latino voters.

"The struggle continues," Sanders said in his speech Tuesday. He vowed to fight for every vote and delegate through the Washington, D.C. primary next week and then to the convention in Philadelphia in July.

Sanders Vows to Continue the Fight 1:30

Even so, he hinted to his supporters about the need to rally against Trump.

"The American people, in my view, will never support a candidate whose major theme is bigotry, who insults Mexicans, who insults Muslims and women and African Americans," Sanders said, drawing boos of Trump. "We will not allow Donald Trump to become president of the United States," Sanders said.

After pledging that "we will bring about real immigration reform and a path towards citizenship," he threw his fist in the air as the crowd chanted, "Sí, se puede. Sí, se puede."

Even so, Sanders is beginning to lay off more staff. Cardona said in time, the Clinton campaign will reach out to some of his staff to and try to bring them into her campaign, which is something usually done in campaigns within the same party.

But she said, "Bernie Sanders deserves space to try to do this (finish out his campaign) in the most effective and constructive manner for himself — I was in the position his supporters are in eight years ago," referring to her work with Clinton's campaign in 2008.

"We have to give them the time and space to mourn and then have to communicate that we are with them, that Hillary is their champion and Bernie will continue to be an important part of the process and of the movement that they started," said Cardona. "Without them there is a real possibility that Donald Trump will be the next president of the United States."

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