NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. – U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, the highest-ranking black member of Congress and the kingmaker of South Carolina's Democratic political orbit, on Wednesday endorsed Joe Biden's presidential campaign. The backing could provide a much-needed boost for the former vice president heading into South Carolina's primary.
"I can think of no one better suited, better prepared, I can think of no one with the integrity, no one more committed to the fundamental principles that make this country what it is than my good friend," said Clyburn, appearing with Biden at an event in North Charleston.
He called on the people of South Carolina to “stand with” Biden.
It had long been expected that Clyburn, the House majority whip, would support Biden. The men were in Congress together for more than a decade, with Clyburn also working closely with the Obama administration in his House leadership roles. Biden was among the presidential hopefuls and other political notables who attended two days of funeral and homegoing services last year for Clyburn's wife, Emily.
The support could help Biden avoid limping across the finish line in Saturday's balloting in South Carolina, where he has long led in polling, particularly among the black voters, who comprise most of the Democratic electorate. But that lead has tightened in recent months, in part because of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' momentum after success in other early state contests. Another factor is the focus of candidates including California billionaire Tom Steyer, who has spent millions of dollars on ads in the state and worked to build relationships with black voters.
Biden, taking the podium from Clyburn on Wednesday, thanked his longtime friend but then quickly slipped into an opaque reference to Sanders.
"Today, people are talking about a revolution," Biden said. "But what the country’s looking for are results. What they’re looking for is security. What they’re looking for is being able to sustain and maintain their dignity.”
Biden went on to note Clyburn's role in securing the Democratic votes for the 2010 health insurance overhaul that ranks as President Barack Obama's signature domestic achievement. Biden said his proposal for a "public option" insurance plan to expand coverage under "Obamacare" would build on Clyburn's work rather than "start from scratch" with single-payer government insurance that Sanders proposes.