Clyburn endorsement strengthens Clinton advantage over Sanders

Veteran South Carolina Rep. James E. Clyburn jumped off the fence today and gave his unqualified support to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in the state Democratic primary.

"My.heart has always been with Hillary Clinton, but my head had me in a neutral corner," he told a news conference in Columbia.


Rep. James E. Clyburn.

Rep. James E. Clyburn.

In 2008, Clyburn stayed neutral in Clinton's primary race against Barack Obama. Although the favorite to win, Clinton lost in a contest that gave Obama momentum that took him to his party's nomination and then on to the Presidency.

Clyburn's move today is likely to be enough to blunt Clinton's opponent Sen. Bernie Sanders' momentum, which earlier led him to a virtual tie in the Iowa caucuses and then onto  a decisive  victory in the New Hampshire primary.

Earlier this month, Clinton picked up another major endorsement that had to make a strong impression on state Democrats, especially black ones poised to vote. She won the backing of Civil Rights Movement icon Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, who said he had known Clinton since the Movement days.

There is little likelihood that Sanders could beat Clinton in South Carolina. Clinton has fostered close relationships with the state's black population, and blacks will probably lead the racial turnout on primary day, Feb. 27. But if Sanders could run within 5 or 6 points of Clinton, or even closer, that would put him virtually head to head with her. But Clyburn's endorsement of Clinton appears to have eliminated that possible outcome.