The Clintons’ Black Superdelegate Problem

By Jennifer Parker

Feb 15, 2008 9:20am

As Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, was telling the New York Times that despite having endorsed Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, he will cast his superdelegate vote for Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, we were talking to a neutral superdelegate who had an interesting take on it all.

The highest-ranking African-American in Congress told us for our Good Morning America report this morning that the racially-tinged way in which critics charge the Clintons conducted their campaign in South Carolina is driving black superdelegates into Obama’s arms.

"The surge — if I may use that word — occurred in direct correlation to the way that campaign had been ratcheted up," said Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-SC, the House Majority Whip who has not endorsed a candidate. "Those of us who live in the South especially, we know the code words when we hear them and we understand the tone. People felt some of that was going on and they reacted to it in a very bitter way."

Clyburn said that he had heard from many black lawmakers who thought the Clintons played the race card. Clyburn said of particular offense were former President Bill Clinton’s comparison of Obama with Rev. Jesse Jackson. "It was an attempt to isolate the ethnicity of the candidate," Clyburn said.

On Capitol Hill, the lobbying from both campaigns has taken on an emotional and dramatic air. "I’ve seen a superdelegate driven to tears over this," Clyburn said. "It’s a very emotional thing. People who have been waiting for years to vote for a woman or a black find themselves conflicted having to make a choice between the two at one time. That’s very, very tough, especially on African American women."

What do you think?

- jpt

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