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Jim Clyburn, ‘Kingmaker of South Carolina Politics,’ Endorses Biden Ahead of Primary

February 26, 2020 by Dan McCue
House Majority Whip James Clyburn, with former Vice President Joe Biden at the Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church in North Charleston, S.C. Feb. 27, 2020. (Photo by Dan McCue)

House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, widely considered to be the political kingmaker in South Carolina, endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden Wednesday, just three days ahead of the nation’s First in the South primary.

The endorsement was announced minutes after the two men shared the stage at a ministers’ breakfast hosted by the Rev. Al Sharpton and his National Action Network at Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church in North Charleston, S.C.

During the morning event, which also featured speeches by former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttgieg,  Billionaire Tom Steyer, and Sens. Amy Klobuchar, of Minnesota, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Biden and Clyburn did little to suggest the endorsement was imminent.

The tip off was that Biden and Clyburn left the event together, shortly after both men had addressed the audience, and immediately after Clyburn, who has represented South Carolina’s 6th Congressional District since 1993, gave a warm welcome to Klobuchar who was just about to speak.

Clyburn’s endorsement is expected to give a boost to Biden’s campaign. In some recent polls Biden has appeared to be losing ground to Sanders, who pulled off a double-digit win in the Nevada caucuses a week ago.

In his endorsement, Clyburn said South Carolinians believe the best way to tell what a person will do is to look at what he or she has done in the past.

“I know Joe Biden. I know his character, his heart, and his record,” Clyburn said. “Joe Biden has stood for the hard-working people of South Carolina. We know Joe. But more importantly, he knows us.”

Clyburn went on to say he believes Biden will build on President Barack Obama’s legacy by protecting and expanding the Affordable Care Act, and “taking on” the National Rifle Association.

“In South Carolina, we choose presidents. When President Clinton came to South Carolina, we launched him to the White House. When President Obama came to South Carolina, we launched him to the White House. Now Joe Biden is in South Carolina, and we are going to launch him to the White House,” he said.

Biden was warmly greeted as an old friend at the event, which was attended by church and secular leaders of South Carolina’s African-American community.

Among the other candidates who appeared, Buttigieg was the most enthusiastically received, his remarks repeatedly inspiring applause from the audience, followed by Klobuchar.

In fact, after Klobuchar finished speaking, Sharpton threw his arm around her and directed her attention to Roland Martin, the black journalist and commentator who was sitting in the audience.

Sharpton suggested the Minnisota senator get to know Martin, whom Ebony Magazine has repeatedly listed as one of the 150 Most Influential African-Americans in the United States.

“You want to be president, we call Roland Martin the president of South Carolina,” the reverend said.

Interestingly Tom Steyer appeared to receive the coolest reception, and was the only candidate asked to cut his remarks short — this despite his strenuous efforts to court the black community.

As for Bernie Sanders, his biggest applause came not when he was talking about his own policies, but when he was bashing President Donald Trump, who will be traveling to North Charleston for a rally on Friday evening.

Elizabeth Warren fared slightly better than Steyer — her remarks weren’t cut short — but she appeared to be trying too hard to court the audience with extended comments about her own religious upbringing. When she left the stage, passing Sanders, she offered her fellow progressive only a perfunctory handshake.

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