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Clinton Takes Pride in Obama in S.C.

Democratic presidential candidate US Senator Hillary Clinton greets people after a Sunday morning service at Northminster Presbyterian Church in Columbia, South Carolina. (Reuters).

By Perry Bacon
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- An hour after slamming Sen. Barack Obama's voting record on national television, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton went positive and declared herself "proud" of him.

The shift might have had something to do with the audience. After appearing on Meet the Press from Columbia, she spoke at Northminster Presbyterian Church here, a small African-American congregation -- part of her ongoing effort to court a group of voters who have to choose between Clinton, a politician they like and admire, and Obama, who would be the country's first black president.

Talking about the historical significance of a woman and black man competing for the presidency, she said, "I am so proud of my party, I am so proud of my country and I am so proud of Senator Barack Obama."

She added later in the speech, "I am standing here, Senator Obama stands before you, as a result of the generations of men and women who protested and picketed."

In a week where comments by Clinton and her husband about Obama's candidacy drew criticism from leading black figures, such as Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, who has not endorsed either candidate, she spoke only positively about her rival for the Democratic nomination in front of this audience, reflecting the complicated dynamic of courting black voters here.

At the church, where she addressed more than 200 people, Clinton was accompanied by a number of her black supporters, including Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones of Ohio and billionaire mogul Robert Johnson, who sat beside Clinton in the front of the church near the choir.

Obama often discusses his time as a community organizer, working with black churches in Chicago, and Clinton focused on her own work in her 20's, noting she had worked at the Children's Defense Fund. She touted her own record and repeatedly linked the causes of women's rights with that of rights for African-Americans.

"We are all in this struggle together," Clinton said.

Clinton was warmly received at the congregation, although some of its members are backing Obama or still haven't decided.

"I haven't made my mind up," said Blondell Seabrook, who is an auditor in Columbia. "She or Obama, whoever get its it, they should select the other as their running mate."

By Web Politics Editor  |  January 13, 2008; 1:24 PM ET
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