July 2nd, 2008
04:00 PM ET
6 years ago

Analysis: The Obama Test

CNN

CNN's Joe Johns speaks with professor Ron Walters about black members of Congress who supported Sen. Clinton.

(CNN) – Members of the Congressional Black Caucus have some of the safest seats in Congress. Many come from heavily Democratic districts where the only contest that really matters is the primary: Forget November, if you can keep any Democratic rivals out of the primary, you’re on the path to victory.

The formula for holding these seats is relatively simple: stay in touch with your constituents, stick to the well established liberal policy agenda, gain seniority, and use that seniority to convince voters they need your power in Congress.

It’s worked. Until now.

Potential challengers who had no tool to dislodge heavyweight incumbents now have a powerful issue to drive a wedge between these legislators and their constituents. You can sum it up in a phrase: “Did You Believe?” - as in, did you believe in Barack Obama?

It’s already an issue in Michigan’s 13th district, where Congresswoman Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, who stayed neutral in the primary because of her position as head of the Black Caucus, is being attacked as a Hillary Clinton supporter. Ohio’s Stephanie Tubbs Jones, California’s Maxine Waters and Texas Representative Sheila Jackson Lee were among several who backed Clinton outright, and are now having to deal with the repercussions.

University of Maryland historian Ron Walters told CNN’s Joe John’s this week that the uglier chapters in the presidential primary made matters worse.

“One of the biggest things is the unexpected dynamic of perceived racism coming out of the Hillary Clinton campaign alienated many blacks. So it’s not just the issue of the history making properties of Barack Obama,” he said.

It’s likely too late for any potential challengers to get much traction in this election cycle. But if Obama winds up in the White House, the 2010 democratic congressional primaries in heavily African-American districts could be far less predictable than the past.


Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama
soundoff (188 Responses)
  1. Still Waiting for another Rev Wright Sermon that's divisive.

    LOL, when you choose the losing side, things like this occur. Stephanie Tubbs Jones was the loudest one for Clinton in a major swing state.

    She has some major puckering up to do.

    July 2, 2008 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  2. Bob from NY

    What about the "Congressional White Cacus?"

    July 2, 2008 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  3. If you were smart...

    Hey, who needs competition!

    Do like Obama did – challenge all of the petitions so you are the only one on the ticket. It's that simple! That way, the people have no choice but to vote for you.

    Change Obama can make you believe in!

    July 2, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  4. william

    THE MEMBERS OF THE WHITE CACUA WAS FOR HILLARY CLINTON

    July 2, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  5. Frantz (Atlanta)

    Good for them! We need change within the black caucus. They have done to further the cause of minorities. Once they get elected, they feel like they own the position without any accountability.

    July 2, 2008 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  6. CLINTON 08 VP

    UNITED WE'RE STRONGER

    OBAMA (P) & CLINTON (VP) 2008-2014

    NO TO "BUSH II" (MCCAIN) OR MR. WAR, MR. DEATH, MR. NO BRAINS, MR. I BUMP MY HEAD A LOT

    July 2, 2008 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  7. If you were smart...

    Hey, who needs competition!

    Do like Obama did – challenge all of the petitions so you are the only one on the ticket. It's that simple! That way, the people have no choice but to vote for you.

    Change the Rules
    Change your Stance
    Change your Religion
    Change your Close Friends
    Change the Party

    Change Obama can make you believe in! I believe it!

    July 2, 2008 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  8. STILL FOR HILL

    What a shame. List all their names for not towing the line.

    Funny, I am thinking that Obama supporters in states that Hillary won might have a problem with their re-election: The Governor in OK and KS for starters... I'd really like to see old Claire McCaskill get knocked out of her seat too.

    Works both ways, so watch your threats buddy.

    Voting McCain, but Still for Hill

    July 2, 2008 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  9. Neal

    This is vaguely written and seems to only be presented because it has a racial dynamic.

    July 2, 2008 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  10. jimmy velman

    If African Americans go after their fellow congress members because they voted for Hillary in the primaries. How can they unite the democratic party? They have not yet defined their Black Liberation Theology and what it means to the American people, black and white.
    Now they are going to fight among themselves.

    July 2, 2008 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  11. mitchell hussein martin

    "a change is a comin' "

    July 2, 2008 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  12. LA Ben

    As much as I support Senator Obama and can't for the life of me see how any self-respecting African-American could back another candidate, I think it's a bit much that black Congressional members who backed Hillary are on their district's hot seat.

    Prior to Bill's comments, the Clinton's have been longtime friends of African-Americans and the Congressional endorsements they received from black representatives were reflective of that.

    July 2, 2008 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  13. Bill from Oklahoma

    O h I am sure that this animosity would raise its head, but the power of the incumbency will slap them down.

    July 2, 2008 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  14. Nick

    At the beginning of the primary season, few people (that I am aware of) contested that Hillary was the inevitable candidate, she had the money, brandname, and a husband who was a very popular president, I'm sure some of them voted for her as a legitimate candidate, but I have a feeling many were just trying to play it safe to keep their congressional seats, and not neccessarily for the good of the country. Either way, who cares, this is America, you need to lose your governmental position at some time, thats what the constitution says and I believe it!

    July 2, 2008 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  15. saga4obama

    i will not agree with everything Obama says, but i do respect him...a lot more than McCain...
    at least Obama is in charge of his candidacy...good and bad. But McCain as we have seen has been led by the hand and ushered around , told what to do and say do. that is why he now needs Bushs people to take over his campaign, the GOP was not happy with the "progress" McCains has made. McCain had far more time to get his platform right...and what do we see...major flip flop on sooooo many of his "core issues"

    America is at war right now but it is with the incompetence and greed of the Bush Administration. now the same people who put Bush back in office are now working for McCain...4 more years? i think not!

    dumpmccain.com

    July 2, 2008 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  16. James Nelson

    Hmmm. You might have held off on publishing this little missive until you actually had a story. Because a news article based on "coulds" or "mights" or "what-ifs" isn't really news at all– it's speculative fiction!

    Sheesh, I thought you guys were supposed to be professional journalists.

    July 2, 2008 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  17. Susan

    Obama/Clinton

    Obama/Clinton

    A Super Team!!

    July 2, 2008 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  18. Anita from Arizona

    WOW, Bill Clinton's interviewed comment accusing Obama's campaign for using the "race card" and Hillary's "hard working white-american" comment has the potential to do political damage to some of Clinton's political supporters? That's interesting. What are these voters basing their vote on? It doesn't look like they are basing it on qualifications at all. No politician has automatic entitlement to any seat because of race in any district. We voters have to do our search first. That's how we got into this mess in the first place. Knowledge is power.

    July 2, 2008 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  19. Nick - Arlington VA

    STILL FOR HILL July 2nd, 2008 4:33 pm ET

    What a shame. List all their names for not towing the line.

    Funny, I am thinking that Obama supporters in states that Hillary won might have a problem with their re-election: The Governor in OK and KS for starters… I'd really like to see old Claire McCaskill get knocked out of her seat too.

    Works both ways, so watch your threats buddy.

    Voting McCain, but Still for Hill
    =============================================================
    Lacking Logic since 2008 and going strong until Novermber!! YEEEHAAAA.....(this is sarcasm by the way)

    July 2, 2008 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  20. Steve

    As an Obama supporter, I don't like this one bit, and I hope that Obama denounces it. What part of "party unity" don't they understand?

    Oh, and folks like "STILL FOR HILL": we know that you're Operation Chaos. Say hi to Rush for me! :)

    July 2, 2008 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  21. Abby

    Bob from NY, that would be the whole congress up until recently and still the vast majority now. If you cant understand why minorities need protection, you need to go back to school.

    July 2, 2008 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  22. Democrat no matter what

    Hey "STILL FOR HILL"

    If you can swing from Hillary to McCain, then you have no idea what you believe in.

    If you are so republican to vote for Bush the third, I'm not concerned with any of your logic on this blog.

    July 2, 2008 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  23. Chut Pata

    These reps were afraid that they would be branded "Reverse-Racist" if they supported Obama, especially since they did not see Obama win. I think their seats are now gone unless they can do something visible for Obama, but what can they do?

    July 2, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  24. Lynn

    I was very concern during the primary of how Clinton supporters especially politicians would be treated if Obama would win. You could tell by all of the mean-spirited blogs, media etc. I wrote to all of the AA politicians who supported Hillary and thank them knowing it must have been a hard decision. So it does not surprise me – Obama – Chicago politics is at work. I disagree with Ron Walters – It was Obama who played the race card. Remember the memo before SC primary. Maybe he used it all of his life because he's really good at it. He sure can twist words.

    July 2, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  25. k.

    Couldn't it just mean that they knew Hilliary had more experience and not that they are traitors????????

    July 2, 2008 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
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