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

Analysis: The Obama Test


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. Love My USA

    CHANGE??????? BO – null null – otherwise known as Dr. NO!

    "CHANGE"......What I Believe BO's Definition of Change Is!

    H = HATRED
    G = GREED

    "Change" is fleeting! Positive and Negative – Good and Bad. Obama's self-serving "change" born from contempt and controversy, is like a wrecker destroying in a day or two, what it took noble builders – our founding fathers – years to construct.

    The tale of the sinister scorpion, mirrors BO's blueprint of deceit.

    The scorpion, a poor swimmer, asked the turtle to carry him across the river. "Are you mad?" exclaimed the turtle. "While swimming, you'll sting me and I'll drown."
    Laughed the scorpion, "If I sting you, you would drown and I would go down with you. Where is the logic in that?"
    "You're right. Hop on!" said the turtle.
    Halfway across the river, the scorpion gave the turtle a mighty sting. As they both sank to the bottom, the turtle resignedly asked, "You said there'd be no logic in stinging me. Why did you do it?"
    "It has nothing to do with logic," the drowning scorpion replied. "IT'S JUST MY CHARACTER."



    July 2, 2008 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  2. Giovanni

    So this somehow represents Change and Unity?

    Anyhow now that I find Shiela Jackson on that list I'm going to do everything I can to make sure she wins.

    July 2, 2008 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  3. KenB, Michigan

    Its all good...with a little money and a little support someone could find a soft spot, a chink in the the armor and run a state campaign that could attract national coverage...someone in the caucus is slippin', over confident and from time to time useless in their position.
    The right candidate at the right time could...
    sweet! I can almost taste it.

    July 2, 2008 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  4. mike richardson

    Hey Still for Hill,

    You wanted Clinton but now you're going to support McCain? Why exactly were you supporting Hillary? Check Mr. McCain's voting record, "buddy." Something is wrong – you've got only 4 months to let it go and get it figured out.

    July 2, 2008 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  5. Matthew

    God forbid Stephanie Tubbs Jones, Sheila Jackson Lee and others think for themselves and make an educated decision to do what they think best! Who do they think they are???

    July 2, 2008 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  6. Susan W from Detroit

    The real issue with Michigan’s 13th district Congresswoman Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick is that her son, the mayor of Detroit, Kwame Kilpatrick will not resign and is taking the citiy's residents through a long legal battle over perjury charges. Even his own mother seems unwilling to get her son to "man-up" and show some character and resign for the good of the city. So if the congresswoman is that ineffectual with her own family why would you want her working in Congress?

    The Obama effect is that voters are finally looking at ALL candidates based on the "content of their character, not just the color of their skin". So maybe in 2010 and hopefully as soon as 2008, candidates will have to show that they actually DO something that is worthy of our vote. "WHAT A CONCEPT!!!"

    July 2, 2008 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  7. Jay

    Everythings corrupted...Black and white! Water, food, oil, war, goverment, schools police...Everything needs to be changed!

    July 2, 2008 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  8. Lisa in Cincy

    Part of their jobs were to vote their constituencies.
    For those that didnt – start looking for jobs now. Its tough out here!

    July 2, 2008 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  9. Last honest Man

    The lack of depth and knowledge of the Black Caucus is evident
    in the fact that people like Maxine Waters are part of it. Remember she's the one who want to socialize the Oil Industry. LA deserves her. The country does not.

    July 2, 2008 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  10. Jim

    Sure wish Obama was one of those guys. Didn't like McCain but am voting for him.

    Hillary was the best. Stupid Americans.

    July 2, 2008 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  11. As a Black woman

    I am really tired of the racially driven groups such as the "Congressional Black Caucus".

    July 2, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  12. Abby

    Obama is a FRAUD – he CHANGES his message for political gain.
    WHY do we even have BLACK caucuses???? We do NOT have White caucuses?? Obama has DIVIDED this party and country – he is NOT the uniter – he is a Fraud!

    July 2, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  13. Griff

    Bias??? Predudice??? Now it come out... You talked! Infact you Yelled! Now it's Black's on Black's.... But you will lose in November... Mr Obama... White Hater....

    July 2, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  14. JJ

    Well I don't think Hillary is the only problem Kilpatrick has. Her son alone (Kwame) has done some damage to that name. Carolyn is in for a dog fight to get re-elected to that district.

    July 2, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  15. Ryan - Delaware

    How said and unfortunate. Blatant discrimination. Because you didn't stand behind the black candidate we are voting you out....

    Yet if this happened in reverse their would be an outrage.....how sad this country is.

    NO OBAMA!!

    July 2, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  16. Roofin Reality, Houston, Tx.

    Living here in Sheila Jackson Lee's territory, a lot of folks have spoken ill of her for backing Senator Clinton.
    I disagree.

    We have to remember that former President Clinton did a lot for all Americans, including African Americans during the prosperous 90's. And he had a number of prominent African Americans around him, including Vernond Jordan and Ron Brown as well Alexis Hermann and Jocelyn Elders (who could ever forget her ideas about self-gratification? But I digress).

    So, these people who jumped on Clintons truck were likely thinking the same thing would happen again and they then would get appointments, or their friends would get appointments, to senior level positions. It didn't happen.

    And look people, everyone KNEW that Clinton was going to win. It just so happens that someone forgot to tell Senator Obama and his team so they went ahead and strapped up and played the game. Fair and square they won. Will some of these people have tough re-election campaigns? Sure, and I think being questioned on why they chose one side or the other is fair. But also recognize, as long as they get on the bus now, and I'm really talking to you formerly Hillary/now McCain didiots, all is forgiven and we all go forward together. But if you keep talking nonsense, the bus is leaving with you on it or not. Your choice.

    July 2, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  17. Lim

    Obama '08


    July 2, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  18. Mike D

    obama/webb 08
    CHANGE you can believe in

    July 2, 2008 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  19. D T Chicago

    Good, hopefully Ms. Jones will be the first to go. She was still talking Clintonspeak in PR & she was in the bunker on June 3rd.

    July 2, 2008 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  20. Willy

    Require voter to show ID's and you'd be surprise who'd be standing tomorrow in those democrat districts.

    July 2, 2008 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  21. Molly

    So...only the Black community has to stick with the will of the people??
    Kennedy, Kerry & Richardson – all endoresed obama – BUT – their States VOTED for Senator Hillary Clinton – so much for the Will of the people! And they will learn about the will of the people & VOTES at the election.

    July 2, 2008 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  22. Fred Berry

    Sheila Jackson Lee was in trouble in her district WAY before the primaries, and she was in even more hot water when she ignored the will of her constituents-

    She has some repair work to do, but unless someone decides to run against her (which is doubtful) she'll be ok.

    And now let the racist internet trolls rant away

    July 2, 2008 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  23. wantedClintonbutgotObama

    Dear Bob and William – use your dictionaries, please!! (and quit whining)

    July 2, 2008 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  24. Realistic

    It's just so nice to be starting the primary election with a candidate who has succesfully managed the financial aspect of his campaign, instead of being $30 million behind like the candidate who was totally unable to financially manage her campaign and spent for extravagant suites in Las Vegas, etc.

    July 2, 2008 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  25. Shawna

    The individuals voting against the incumbants are voting that way because obviously these elected officials don't share their values. Plan and simple.

    July 2, 2008 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
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