Longtime South Carolina U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn garnered nearly as much attention as anyone during the 10th Democratic presidential debate held in Charleston on Tuesday, February 25.
And, Clyburn does not number among those running for president.
However, each of the candidates understands that the powerful congressman’s endorsement could tip the scales for Saturday’s all-important primary.
With Clyburn’s backing, a candidate could more easily garner the lion’s share of the Black vote which many serves as the ticket to the nomination and, perhaps, the presidency.
Immediately out of the gate, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Amy Klobuchar mentioned Clyburn, who has earned a reputation in the Palmetto State as a “Kingmaker” because of his influence in South Carolina Democratic politics.
However, NBC News reported late Tuesday that Clyburn would endorse former Vice President Joe Biden, which the network says could help “cement what Biden has predicted would be a first-place finish in South Carolina.”
Earlier on Tuesday and just before the debate, Biden gave an exclusive interview with the Black Press of America in which he said African Americans will likely select the next president.
“The Black vote will determine the nominee … and hopefully the next president. The Black Press is the heart and soul as to why I got involved,” Biden told National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) President and CEO Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. during the 45-minute discussion, livestreamed to millions of viewers around the nation.
The NNPA serves as a trade association of Black-owned newspapers and media companies around the country, including the Washington Informer.
“The Black community brought me to the dance,” Biden stated.
During the debate, Biden expanded on his mission to capture the Black vote.
“I’ve worked like the devil to earn the vote of the African-American community,” Biden said. “I don’t expect anything. I plan to earn the vote.”
The debate began with moderator Norah O’Donnell asking Sanders how he would convince voters that a Democratic Socialist in the White House would be better for the economy.
The Vermont senator responded by attacking former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
“The economy is doing really great for people like Mr. Bloomberg,” Sanders quipped. Bloomberg, whose $3.5 million ad campaign with NNPA is the most substantial single advertising buy in Black Press history, also answered questions about his stop and frisk policy that targeted African Americans during his tenure as mayor of New York City. “We let it get out of control, and when I realized that, I cut it back by 95 percent,” Bloomberg stated. “And, I’ve apologized and asked for forgiveness. I’ve met with Black leaders to try and get an understanding of how I can better position myself and what I should have done and what I should do next time,” he said. Hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer has also courted the Black vote.
Last week in Las Vegas, he, too, sat down with Chavis for a live interview and noted that African Americans comprise more than half of his staff.
“There is no policy area in America that I don’t think has a substantial, often unmentioned, but important aspect about race,” Steyer said. “So, when you talk to me about housing, criminal justice, or wages or education or climate, I think it’s absolutely unrealistic to talk about it without bringing up the racial aspect of it, specifically regarding the Black community.”
Sen. Amy Klobuchar said rural health care could be better served by expanding critical access hospitals and using educational incentives on loan paybacks to draw people into health care careers where shortages currently exist. Immigration reform would allow doctors from other countries to live and work in rural areas, she added.
Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, pitched a solution that called for “better housing, wages, and criminal justice reform” to help many African Americans in need of health care.
Meanwhile, Sen. Elizabeth Warren quoted the King James Bible when asked about her campaign motto.
“It’s Matthew 25, and that is: ‘Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me,’” Warren said.
“It is how we treat other people and lift them up. That is why I am in this fight. That is why I am running to be president and it is why I will be an effective president.”