WASHINGTON (CNN) – The heated presidential race in South Carolina may be too hot for some of the state’s top politicians - including Democratic heavyweight Rep. Jim Clyburn - to pick any side at all.
“I’m going to be looking at things in December, to see what the lay of the land is at that time,” Clyburn told CNN Radio, “if it continues to be the way it is now, I probably won’t endorse.”
Clyburn is the No. 3 Democrat in the U.S. House and former head of the Congressional Black Caucus. In the world of endorsements, his would be platinum with a lot of sparkle, considering that South Carolina plans the first Democratic primary in the south and a majority of the voters in the state's primary could be African-American.
Clyburn seems to be only half-joking when he points to a split within his family as reason to stay out of the race. Symbolic or not, one daughter prefers Barack Obama, another Hillary Clinton and still a third family member backs John Edwards. But a larger factor could be that the eight-term Democrat has been stung before. Clyburn endorsed and set up a state campaign for former Missouri congressman Dick Gephardt in 2004. But Gephardt left the race well before the Palmetto State primary.
“I thought he would do well in South Carolina. But he had to get to South Carolina and he didn’t,” Clyburn said. “And so maybe I learned my lesson.”
Clyburn’s Republican neighbor Rep. Henry Brown has a similar approach to the GOP race.
“I don’t know that I will endorse,” he said, “I typically don’t. And it’s still very early.”
South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford vigorously endorsed Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, in 2000, but like Brown and Clyburn, Sanford is withholding any presidential endorsement for now.
-CNN Radio’s Lisa Goddard