South Carolinians 'leery about that title socialist': Rep. James Clyburn

Ahead of the S.C. primary, Rep. James Clyburn appeared on ABC's "This Week."

February 23, 2020, 10:34 AM

A day after Sen. Bernie Sanders' resounding victory in the Nevada caucuses, Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., said his state's electorate could be uncomfortable with voting for someone who calls himself a socialist.

"I do believe it will be an extra burden for us to have to carry. This is South Carolina, and South Carolinians are pretty leery about that title socialist," he said on ABC's "This Week" Sunday.

Talking to ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos from South Carolina, the site of the next Democratic primary contest, Clyburn said that if the Democrats nominate a socialist, it "would be a real burden for us in these states or congressional districts that we have to do well in."

"If you look at how well we did the last time, and look at the congressional districts, these were not liberal or what you might call progressive districts. These are basically moderate and conservative districts that we did well in, and in those districts, it's going to be tough to hold onto these jobs if you have to make the case for accepting a self-proclaimed democratic socialist," he added.

Sanders has been undefeated since virtually tying with former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg in the Iowa caucuses.

PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: Rep. James Clyburn attends the Radio and Television Correspondents' Dinner on June 19, 2009, in Washington.
FILE PHOTO: Rep. James Clyburn attends the Radio and Television Correspondents' Dinner on June 19, 2009, in Washington.
Pool/Getty Images

The House majority whip told Stephanopoulos that he would uphold his previous pledge to withhold endorsing a candidate in the 2020 Democratic field until after the South Carolina debate on Tuesday night.

"I'm going to honor this debate. I don't want to distract from it all," he said. "On Wednesday morning, I will let my choice be known. I have been asked about it by too many people, and I think I would be dishonorable if I did not tell people exactly what I feel."

Former Vice President Joe Biden told MSNBC Wednesday that he thought he would get Clyburn's support.

Although Biden has consistently led in South Carolina polls, his lead has narrowed in recent weeks. A poll released Friday showed Sanders trailing the vice president by only five points.

"It is not make or break. It all depends upon how it comes out," Clyburn said of Biden's chances in South Carolina.

"I think make or break is probably the following Tuesday -- Super Tuesday," he added.

Despite Sanders' previous victories in early Democratic contests, the House majority whip told Stephanopoulos that the Vermont senator's winning streak might not continue past Saturday.

"We are going to let people know how we feel about these candidates, and it may not line up with Nevada or New Hampshire or Iowa," he said.

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