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The Clyburn Primary

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. - For political junkies reading every tea leaf possible regarding presidential endorsements, Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) just wrapped up an interesting conference call with reporters covering the House Democratic retreat here in the cradle of American civilization.

Clyburn's call was a chance to recap a panel discussion he led earlier this morning on faith and politics at the Democratic retreat in the Kingsmill Resort, an attempt to get his party more comfortable with talking about religion and values.

Asked how the presidential candidates were handling this issue, Clyburn first mentioned Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), noting that Obama had recently appeared at a Southern California mega-church run by a leading conservative evangelical, Rick Warren. "It's very interesting that Senator Obama has been in one of the largest evangelical churches," he said.

Clyburn is the most prominent African-American politician in the Palmetto State and, by virtue of his position as House majority whip, the No. 3 position in leadership, he's the highest-ranking black member of Congress. [Former Rep. William Gray (D-Pa.) also served as majority whip in the late 1980s and early 1990s.] This makes his endorsement much sought after as black voters are expected to account for more than 40 percent of South Carolina's Democratic primary. Obama would appear to have an advantage in getting those votes as he's possibly the best positioned black politician to ever run for president.

After touting Obama, Clyburn quickly offered his congratulations to former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.), who won the South Carolina primary in 2004. For the past two years, Edwards has been preaching a message of anti-poverty, in ways that Clyburn said connects well with religious themes. "The message is resonating with voters," Clyburn said.

Clyburn then shifted to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), who, he said, "has begun to speak, what I would say, in more faith-based terms."

Not wanting to forget anyone, Clyburn then mentioned that in the past two weeks Sens. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Joe Biden (D-Del.) had been in South Carolina and attended church services with Clyburn.

So, Clyburn, in order, mentioned Obama, Edwards, Clinton, Dodd and Biden. Were those his presidential preferences?

No, no, no.

The Clyburn primary will continue on well into 2007 and maybe into 2008, he said. Noting his "responsibility" to stay neutral for now, Clyburn will help host a late April debate at his alma mater, South Carolina State University.

"I think it would be foolhardy of me," he said of an early presidential endorsement.

By Paul Kane  |  February 2, 2007; 2:15 PM ET
Categories:  Dem. Leaders , House  
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Comments

Please tell me why reporters make endorsements seem like they are important? Clyburn endorsed Gephardt in 2004 and when he dropped out he endorsed Kerry. I believe that John Edwards won the South Carolina primary.

You might also recall the coveted enorsements of Howard Dean (Tom Harkin...etc.) and how well that worked out.

Voters (unlike some reporters) don't care who politicians endorse.

Posted by: Mike | February 2, 2007 3:52 PM | Report abuse

Living here in South Carolina, Clyburn is well respected, very well respected. I would think that if Clyburn suggested a candidate, the view from here certainly suggest that people would take notice and give the candidate a hard look. Gephardt was an ineffective campaigner here and did nothing to effectively capitalize on the endorsement. Voters may not care who candidates endorse, but I can assure you voters will listen and should Clyburn endorse someone (which I doubt) voters here will listen very hard.

Posted by: Darktown | February 2, 2007 9:56 PM | Report abuse

HINT TO BLOGGER: He votes Republican!

Posted by: hillaryISaSHEMALE | February 5, 2007 3:17 PM | Report abuse

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