Democratic powerbroker Rep. James C. Clyburn threw his political muscle behind former Vice President Joe Biden in South Carolina Wednesday, in what he arranged as a dramatic gesture three days before the primary.
Clyburn, the longest serving member of the South Carolina delegation and a senior member of the Congressional Black Caucus, plugged the announcement days in advance for maximum impact.
Clyburn spoke emotionally about his own background and his late wife, Emily, as well as his reason to ‘break my silence.’
‘I am fearful for the future of this country,’ he told reporters and a bank of TV cameras in North Charleston, before voicing his support for ‘My good friend – my late wife’s great friend, Joe Biden.’
He said he could 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 Biden.
Clyburn said he decided to talk after speaking to an elderly constituent at a funeral.
Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., threw his weight into the 2020 Democratic presidential Friday by announcing his endorsement Wednesday, three days before the state’s primary
‘I’ve been saying to many, I’ve known for a long time who I would vote for. But I had not decided whether or not to share it with the public,’ he said.
‘But I want the public to know that I am voting for Joe Biden, south Carolinians should be voting for Joe Biden.’
He spoke hours after Democrats clashed in a free-for-all on the debate stage in Charleston, where Biden had several forceful moments in a pile-up where moderators struggled to keep control of the conversation.
The move comes as Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has been rising in the state and nationally, following his strong performances in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.
Clyburn, at times on the verge of tears, spoke about his work in the civil rights movement, and about the affection his late wife had for Biden.
‘It’s hard to know what to say. For real,’ said Biden.
Clyburn recalled that his late wife told him to always use billboards when he campaigned.
Biden thanked Clyburn for his endorsement and made comparisons between their two careers. He pledged diversity in Supreme Court and cabinet picks if elected
Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders speaks at the tenth Democratic 2020 presidential debate at the Gaillard Center in Charleston, South Carolina, U.S. February 25, 2020
The endorsement comes after Biden landed a few blows, and committed a flub, at Tuesday’s debate in Charleston
Accepting the endorsement, Biden said his own late wife had asked him to put up billboards.
‘Wanted to have billboards, for real,’ he said. ‘A billboard that she came up with, one saying: ‘For all our families.’
Then Biden pivoted to a slam on Sanders.
‘Today people are talking about a revolution. What the country’s looking for are results. What they’re looking for is security. ‘What they’re looking for is to be able to sustain and maintain their dignity,’ Biden said.
He also blasted gun manufacturers in a community still scarred by gun violence and the shootings at the Mother Emanuel AME church. He repeated a slam at those who have opposed gun control measures and those who backed a law immunizing gun manufacturers. It was another dig at Sanders, this time without a flub he committed at Tuesday’s debate.
He told gun makers: ‘I’m coming for you. It’s got to stop.’
‘South Carolina chooses presidents. It decided Bill Clinton to the WH. And up to that time it didn’t look like he was going very far,’ said Biden.
‘You launched by buddy Barack Obama to the White House. And I firmly believe, once again on Saturday you hold in your hands in South Carolina the power to choose the next president of the united States.’
He added: ‘And I am here, heart and soul, with everything I’ve got to earn the support of the people of South Carolina. Nothing is expected or guaranteed,’ he said … If you send me out of South Carolina with a victory, there will be no stopping us. We will win the nomination, we will win the presidency, and most importantly we will eliminate the fear so many have int this country of a second term of Donald Trump.
Biden made an expansive pledge on diversity, vowing to show it in his appointments.
‘That includes the White House. That includes the staff there. That includes the cabinet that includes the Supreme Court and the Congress,’ he said.
‘As president I’d be honored, honored to appoint the first African American woman to the court,’ he said. ;It should look like the country. It’s long past time.’
Sanders’ camp wasn’t optimistic Tuesday night. ‘No, you know, there’s been a lot of reporting of who it’s going to be and I suspect it’s not us,’ said Jeff Weaver, a senior campaign adviser to Sanders.
The event was attended by Clyburn family members and former South Carolina mayor Joe Riley.
Clyburn’s annual fish fry is a major political event in the state. In Congress, he serves as the House majority whip, the No. 3 Democratic leadership post. He staged the event at Trident Technical College inside his districts.
Biden has been counting on South Carolina to boost his campaign after some halting early performances.
He got some laughs and drove home some points at Tuesday night’s debate, while also committing one of his signature gaffes.
He left viewers confused when he said 150 million Americans have died from gun violence since 2007 – hugely exaggerating the deaths from firearms in the US since the law was passed giving gun manufacturers immunity from liability for gun violence.
‘Imagine if I stood here and said we give immunity to drug companies, we give immunity to tobacco companies. That has caused carnage on our streets,’ Biden said Tuesday. ‘150 million people have been killed since 2007 when Bernie voted to exempt the gun manufacturers from liability, more than all the wars, including Vietnam from that point on,’ he said.
According to the Center for American Progress, the number of firearm deaths in the US between 2007 to 2017 was 373,663
Biden has been banking on strong support from African American voters in South Carolina to help stem Bernie Sanders’ rise
Bernie Sanders took fire in Tuesday night’s debate. On Wednesday, he was holding an 18-point lead in a new California poll