Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Congressional Black Congress Split Evenly Between Backers of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
By: Associated Press and BlackAmericaWeb.com
In the race for endorsements in a tightening presidential primary season, the 42-member Congressional Black Caucus is evenly split between Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in its members' support.
Both Obama and Clinton have 17 backers among the CBC's ranks. Three CBC members are supporting Edwards, and five have not committed to any candidate yet.
California Rep. Maxine Waters, who announced her support for Clinton Tuesday, offered the most recent endorsement.
"At a time when the economy continues to worsen and so many of my constituents are losing their homes and their jobs, we need someone with the leadership and experience who can step in on day one to tackle the economic challenges our country is facing," Waters said. "Hillary understands the daily challenges that people are facing and she will fight for them everyday she is in the White House."
Issues of race and gender have come to the forefront of the campaign, pitting Clinton, who hopes to be the first female president, against Obama, seeking to become the first black to hold the job.
Among those endorsing Clinton are Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas; Stephanie Tubbs Jones of Ohio; Kendrick Meek, Corrine Brown and Alcee Hastings of Florida; Yvette Clarke, Charles Rangel, Gregory Meeks and Edolphus Towns of New York; Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri; Dianne Watson and Laura Richardson of California; David Scott and John Lewis of Georgia and Donna Christian-Christensen (V.I.).
Obama’s supporters include Bobby Scott of Virginia; Danny K. Davis, Bobby Rush and Jesse Jackson Jr. of Illinois; Barbara Lee of California; Artur Davis of Alabama; Gwen Moore of Wisconsin; William Lacy Clay of Missouri; Elijah Cummings of Maryland; Sanford Bishop and Hank Johnson of Georgia; John Conyers of Michigan; Keith Ellison of Minnesota; Chaka Fattah of Pennsylvania and Al Green of Texas.
In Waters, Clinton has won the backing of a lawmaker whose support the New York senator's campaign is hoping will help blunt charges of efforts to create racial polarization in the South Carolina primary. Clinton's husband, former President Bill Clinton, appointed Waters' husband, former NFL player Sidney Williams, ambassador to the Bahamas in the 1990s.
"They are all professional politicians, and the first thing professional politicians learn is to try to be where they think it is more politically advantageous to be," Davis, an Obama supporter, told Politico. "Many people will go with that which is projected, as opposed to going where there is no path and helping to blaze a trail."
Lacy Clay, another Obama backer, told Politico some African-Americans in Congress had miscalculated the presidential race. "Some of our colleagues misread the tea leaves of politics and thought it was a slam-dunk for Hillary, and it’s not," he said.
Clinton and Obama collide next week in a coast-to-coast competition for delegates across 22 states.
Several CBC members, including Jackson Lee, Tubbs Jones, Meeks and Lewis, have been surrogates for the Clinton campaign in television interviews conducted during primary season, both before and after tough state contests.
"Sen. Hillary Clinton is the Democratic candidate with the perfect blend of leadership, talent and intellect to lead our nation in a new direction. It is my honor to endorse Sen. Hillary Clinton to be our next president," Meek said in a statement.
Meek appeared in cable news networks Tuesday to discuss the Florida primary and defend Clinton's decision to conduct a rally in the state, despite the DNC having stripped the state of its delegates.
"In politics, we all understand that the only thing you have is your word," Tubbs Jones said in an interview with The New York Times. "You make a commitment to a person, and you stick with them through thick and thin. My commitment is thick, and I’m in there for the long run."
Many blacks have held Bill Clinton in high esteem since his days in the Oval Office, a sentiment that carries on to his wife. Sen. Clinton has said that if she is elected president, she would make her husband a roaming ambassador to the world, using his skills to repair the nation's tattered image abroad.
"I can't think of a better cheerleader for America than Bill Clinton, can you?" Clinton said. "He has said he would do anything I asked him to do. I would put him to work."
Nonetheless, many young black Americans -- like half the CBC membership -- are supporting Obama.
"Students told me they never were involved, never cared about politics, never thought anybody cared about them until they heard Sen. Obama’s message," said Jotaka Eaddy, 29, a South Carolina native who took a leave of absence from her job to help get out the vote at her alma mater, the University of South Carolina.
"When you look at his campaign, it was very effective. He went into communities and engage the communities that want and are demanding change," Eaddy told BlackAmericaWeb.com.
Eaddy took a leave from her job for U.S. Action and the U.S. Action Education Foundation, managing community awareness in five states on such issues as taxes and budgets, ending the war in Iraq and expanding health care. She said that Obama’s stand on those issues were in sync with hers.
"Every day I go to work, working to expand health care, ending the war in Iraq, excpanding the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), advocating on behalf of others, and Sen. Obama is advocating for those very core values," Eaddy said."That inspires me."
Eaddy, who was the first black student body president at the University of South Carolina, said she was heading back to her job in Washington, D.C., but would look for opportunities to "help in whatever capacity I can to foster young voter turnout" for Obama.
"I consider myself somewhat of a young adult, and he gives me hope for the future -- and I haven’t had that before. He gives me hope that he’s going to make America for his children and for the children I hope to have, and he’s working to make it better for everyone."
Young voter turnout rose in the 2004 and 2006 elections. In the 2004 presidential election, about 20.1 million young people, ages 18 to 29, voted. The turnout rate was 49 percent, up 9 percentage points from 2000. The turnout rate in 2006, a non-presidential year, was 25 percent, up 3 percentage points from 2002.
In the 2004 presidential election, voter turnout increased among all groups of young people, not just college students. This group of young voters is more racially and ethnically diverse than their older adult counterparts. And nearly 44 million 18- to 29-year-olds will be eligible to vote in this year's presidential election, representing a fifth, or 21 percent, of the eligible voting population.
"There’s a change in the air," said Betty Baye, a columnist at the Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky.
Baye told BlackAmericaWeb.com that Kentucky, which has been a Republican stronghold for many years, is becoming more Democratic.
"We just turned out our Republican governor," Baye said. "Barack has been here, and he has been warmly received."
"I think he’s transformative," Baye said. "And it’s interesting how much Obama strikes people, oddly enough, as 'Clintonesque' … I’ve heard people say he made you feel like he was really hearing you. That’s what (Bill) Clinton had, and to some degree Obama has it. But people say that with Obama, they don’t feel like they’re having their pockets picked."
After the salvos fired by the Clinton campaign against Obama and the ensuing verbal skirmishes, it appears that Obama emerged the beneficiary.
"Several people have said to me that they didn’t like the Clintons’ presumption that they own the black vote," Baye said. "I think the Clintons have done themselves some damage in the black community."
Heading into Super Tuesday on Feb. 5, according to several polls, Clinton leads Obama 41 percent to 28 percent in California.
Clinton's lead is largest among women, Latinos, lower income voters, non-college graduates, and seniors. Conversely, Obama is preferred among blacks, college graduates, and Democratic primary voters with household incomes of $80,000 or more. Clinton and Obama run about even among men, liberals, and white non-Hispanics.
Baye pointed out that this isn’t the first time a black person has run for president, or even a woman. Rep. Shirley Chisholm, both black and female, was a candidate in 1972. What white candidates -- and their African-American supporters -- fail to see, Baye said, is not that black people see a viable black presidential candidate as novel, but, rather, as overdue.
"What I think people miss is how long it has been, how long this struggle has been going on," Baye said. "Andy Young and all those people (from the civil rights movement) look ancient. John McCain looks ancient. I think it’s a different America."