Rep. Jim Clyburn, the powerful and influential Democratic South Carolina legislator and highest-ranking African American member of Congress, has officially announced who he believes is the best of the bunch from the group of Democratic presidential candidates. The morning after the debate in Charleston on Tuesday, February 25, Clyburn has given his nod to former Vice President Joe Biden.
The support comes as all of the candidates compete for a state with a two-thirds majority Black Democratic electorate.
“I want the public to know I am voting for Joe Biden,” Clyburn said Wednesday morning. “South Carolina should be voting for Joe Biden.”
According to South Carolina newspaper, The State, Clyburn announced his endorsement in his district in North Charleston and brought up the memory of his departed wife, Emily England Clyburn when speaking about Biden, who has led in polls here just slightly ahead of Sen. Bernie Sanders who has been making gains.
“[There was] nobody Emily loved as a leader in this country more than she loved Joe Biden, and we talked about Joe all the time.”
Clyburn has a long relationship with Biden, so the announcement was not completely unexpected. But he had said previously that he had made a decision but would not reveal who it would be, holding it until the morning after the Democratic debate.
The endorsement possibly throws things back into Biden’s favor, given Clyburn’s popularity in South Carolina and that a win here is seen as a must for Biden since he had lackluster performances in the Iowa and Nevada caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. If he does win on Saturday, he moves on to Super Tuesday in a stronger position to compete in the 14-state contest.
“South Carolina chooses presidents,” Biden said Wednesday morning. “You decided to launch Bill Clinton to the White House and at that time it didn’t seem like he was going very far but he did. You launched my buddy Barack Obama to the White House and I firmly believe next Saturday you hold in your hands in South Carolina the power to choose the next president of the United States.
“If you send me out of South Carolina with a victory,” Biden continued, “there will be no stopping us.”
Some South Caroliian African Americans say they’ve already decided on Biden and believe he has a better affinity for Black people.
At a campaign rally in Charleston prior to the debate on Monday night, Leslie Richardson, 56, a military retiree, said that she supports Biden for this reason. “He’s been around us more,” she told BET.com, noting Biden and his siblings were “basically raised like a Black family when they were young.”
“So I give him more credit,” she added. “I think he understands the Black community more than the other candidates.”
Madison J. Gray is BET.com’s senior editor reporting from the ground in South Carolina
Photo: Earl Gibson III/Getty Images
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