Rep. James Clyburn Weighing Presidential Endorsement Ahead of SC Primary

PHOTO:James Clyburn arrives in the U.S. Capitol with House Democratic Leaders to call on House Republicans to join in bipartisan budget negotiations, Sept. 8, 2015. Bill Clark/Getty Images
James Clyburn arrives in the U.S. Capitol with House Democratic Leaders to call on House Republicans to join in bipartisan budget negotiations, Sept. 8, 2015.

Rep. James Clyburn, the third-ranking House Democrat and influential South Carolina leader, said in an interview today that he may soon endorse one of the two Democratic presidential contenders after previously pledging to remain neutral.

Clyburn, who did not make a public endorsement ahead of the South Carolina Democratic primary in 2008, said that he is getting pressured to "take a stand" on the 2016 race for the White House.

Clyburn didn’t say definitely if he was leaning toward endorsing Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. He plans to discuss an endorsement this weekend with his close family, who have exerted the most pressure on him, and has ruled out an endorsement before next week, according to a source close to the congressman.

"I have a wife and three daughters, so you figure it out," Clyburn said, laughing. "They are my family, they are my consultants."

Clyburn said he has also had conversations with colleagues about an endorsement. He said he’s spoken with former South Carolina Democratic Party chairman Dick Harpootlian, who recently endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders.

"We’ve had conversations," he said of Harpootlian. "He’s a good friend."

Clyburn previously said he would likely stay neutral in the race. He is a leading Democrat in South Carolina and his endorsement could help solidify support for Clinton in the state, particularly among African-Americans, at a time when voters may be giving Sanders a closer look.

Clyburn was upset in 2008 at what he called "bizarre" statements made by Bill Clinton during the heat of a tough primary fight between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. He felt the comments crossed the line and were offensive to African-Americans.

Clyburn later recalled in his 2014 memoir, "Blessed Experiences," that he received an angry 2 a.m. phone call from Bill Clinton following the 2008 South Carolina primary.

"If you bastards want a fight, you damn well will get one," Clinton said.

He told ABC News at the time that: "He was very upset," and added, "His wife had just suffered a major defeat in the South Carolina primary, and I had not been involved in it, but Bill Clinton thought otherwise."

Since then, Clyburn has said his relationship with the Clintons has improved.

The Congressional Black Caucus' political action committee will endorse Clinton's presidential bid Thursday, after members voted on making the endorsement.

Caucus chairman G.K. Butterfield, D-North Carolina, endorsed Clinton in an op-ed in January, calling her the candidate “best positioned to better African-American lives.”