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. Sharon

    The Black Liberation Theology, Rev. Wright, Bill Ayers and Barrack Obama all have something in common. Do you know what that is? If you know what this is do you think Barrack Obama is qualified to be the President? A change will happen but it's not going to be the change that you want. When I hear Barrack Obama speak it gives me chills but not the kind of chills that make me feel good. I'm a disabled veteran and I don't think we can take a chance on someone with no experience, poor judgment. and a host of extremist friends.

    July 2, 2008 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  2. Voting Obama

    Why is this an issue.. Who cares if your black or white. I wonder when people are going to stop it and move on... Obama you have my vote regardless!!!

    OBAMA 2008 and beyond..Stop all the drama and vote Obama!

    July 2, 2008 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  3. wantedClintonbutgotObama

    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 4 months to let it go and get it figured out.

    July 2, 2008 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  4. Jack

    This sure sounds like Racism to me – in REVERSE!!!!!

    Too bad in America people – and officials cannot even VOTE for who they feel is the Best Qualified Candidate to lead our country.

    Easy – Clinton is Qualified – obama is NOT

    July 2, 2008 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  5. Don Smith

    Many black congress members got on the Clinton bandwagon because they felt she was a shoe in to win. They also hoped that she would provide them some "position" in her administration. Now that she will not have a administration members of the CBC will not have to return to their districts and do some "explaining." We need leaders who are "servants" of the people they represent and not just Negroes in a position of power to collect a pay check. If members of the CBC had got behind and supported Obama the Democratic primary season would have been over a long time ago. But, despite their failure to support him he won any way!!

    July 2, 2008 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  6. Victor in Saanich, B.C. Canada

    If Obama gets elected, he should remember that a healthy majority of the incumbent Democratic members aren't part of the cure, BUT they are part of the disease that is called CONGRESS!!

    July 2, 2008 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  7. Mike D

    HRC supporters, please do not be upset if hillary is not VP, it is wrong to get your hopes up for a political decision that isn't yours to make.

    July 2, 2008 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  8. NObama

    Voting for Obama just because he is black is the mark of complete ignorance.

    July 2, 2008 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  9. aware

    Obama should not have played the race card against Bill Clinton. I read the 2004 Rainbow PUSH event transcripts, and Bill said nothing during the primary that was not said there and not by him! 😦

    Those chickens will come home to roost big time! 🙂

    Obama is a media myth, and he cannot deliver.

    July 2, 2008 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  10. Charlotte

    If their challengers are white it won't mean squat. Even black republicans are voting for Obama strickly because he is black. Obama has a platform that is against all they believe in, yet they will vote for him? I will write Hillary on my ballot and I don't care if he loses. McCain is better qualified to run this country, then the greenhorn Obama.

    July 2, 2008 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  11. Roofin Reality, Houston, Tx.

    Oh yeah, almost forgot Bob from 4:24 and William from 4:29),
    that would be redundant. Come on guys, come up with something a little better next time.

    And Still for Hill at 4:33,
    good to know you're going to vote, it's a God-given right that too many people died for. And, either you're a Republican who was part of good ole Rush's chaos plan. So, your voting for McCain was a foregone conclusion anyway. But thanks for letting us know. Take your time though, as I suspsect that voting will be very light in your district.

    OR hoping you get over being still emotionally caught up in the fact that your nominee lost. All anyone can do for you, and people like you who's nominee didn't make it (I got over Governor Richardson not getting too far so hopefully you can get over Hillary) is pray that you will get back on your feet and become the winner that she is and she knows you can be.

    Because, as she and former President Bill Clinton have done, she took some time off and away from the scene. Now she's pumped and ready to help push Senator Obama over the winning line in November.
    After all, if you are for Hill, then I ask how on earth, especially in today's wrecked Bush economy, could you take $0.05 from McCain (votes) vs. $0.95 from Obama (95% same voting record as Hillary)?
    Ask yourself that introspective question, look yourself in the mirror, consider telling your family that you took a nickel instead of 95 cents and for that reason you can't go on any family vacation this year and then get back to us.

    July 2, 2008 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  12. ERD in NC


    July 2, 2008 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  13. Deana

    Good, that's as it should be. The minute the Clintons went "racial", their supporters should have left them. If they didn't, their constituents should vote them out.

    Let's call it the Barack Obama fallout, and I hope they start with Stephanie Tubbs Jones. I'm in California, but I wish I could vote her out.

    July 2, 2008 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  14. Latigo

    Well, I guess in America the home of the free, you'll be punished, istracusedm abd garrased for having a different political viewpoint in your party and bravely supporting the canddiate you believe it. It doesn't say much about Obama or the those who support him. If I were Hilary, I'd run as an independent to get even., but she won't because Washington power brokering is what politics is all about today, not finding the best candidate or doing the bet job for the people.

    July 2, 2008 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  15. Mark

    This is not news in the black community. I knew exactly what was going to happen to those blacks who backed Clinton inspite of their districts. And yes, it does go both ways, Hillary supporters have the right to vote out people who backed Barack. This is America and anyone has the right to vote for their interest.

    John Lewis was getting ready to be challenged from a 30 year old. He made the right decision to switch to Obama. Hillary was just using him anyway.

    July 2, 2008 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  16. TESAP


    July 2, 2008 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  17. What if?

    To: william, Bob from NY
    It's a shame that some of you would think like this, how do you think we have felt all these years voting for a White President, did you think we were worried about the Black Voters, peoples? But we believed that as long as we voted Demarcated, that President would care about all people, it's was that we had to trust them.

    Because Obama is bi-racial, some want to make it appear that he is only focus on the African Americans, when again he is for ALL. Don't let these racial commenter fool you into to thinking that the changes that Obama promise once he President isn’t going to be for all color people, don’t be fool by these foolish things. All presidents have made decision and they have helped or hurt all races of voters, can’t none of them say this is for a particular race of people. They properly are republicans, so they care about no one but the rich and wealthy.

    July 2, 2008 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  18. Monica for Obama in Indiana

    This so sad, but true. I think Professor Walters is so right. If the district the congressmen/women voted for Obama, then that is the way the congressman goes. But now that we are in the general elections, everyone should back Obama. Thank God my Congressman was already on Obama's side. But my Senator wasn't, so he has a problem in two years, he can really count out a lot of Black votes here.

    July 2, 2008 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  19. Mr. Wednesday

    I got One better for you Frantz from Atl. We need to Disband the National Black Causcus. Im tired of being Labeled. (Black Republican, Black Dem, Black Ent TV, ) ya Dig. And you are right, they get elected and do nothing.

    July 2, 2008 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  20. Tim in Syracuse

    Honestly, its time to stop voting for these idiots because of their "Seniority" or for the color of their skin or any of that and pay much more attention to their records.

    What has this guy done for me?
    For my family?
    Has he / she secured jobs in my state?
    Have they done something for our educational systems?
    How about medical care?
    Where do they stand on Energy?

    Things like this matter....not the tired old garbage of "Seniority".

    While we're at it....how does McCain plan to pay for all of his ideas?
    How about Obama?
    What will it cost me and mine?

    Rhetoric is great.....real solutions within our grasp.....now that's Change I CAN Believe In.

    July 2, 2008 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  21. Leah DiMarco, Texas

    Obama / Sebelius '08

    July 2, 2008 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  22. Edward

    These democrat candidates have to say one thing to get elected and take back our country... TERRORISM AGAINST AMERICANS AT THE GAS PUMPS!!! And then promote an all out investigation into what has driven these prices past any reality and prosecute the perpetrators of this crime!!!

    It is going to destroy the economic model of America and the working man will become slaves to the rich if left unattended much longer....

    Democrats have America behind them if they will just get on message and the focus of Americans is going broke fast!!! Every dollar has been dissolved into a quarter by Bush and McCain will continue this devaluation of your wealth. China now own 60% of our national debt while we pump billions a day into Chinese made consumer products. America is going to be a shell of a country just like Russia who did not lose the Cold War... The currancy of Russia became worthless and the country became insolvent....

    Its TERRORISM PEOPLE!!! Go after the FUEL Terrorist and you will uncover that Bush and Cheney are part of that circle of crooks.... McCain then has to turn against them or he is toast.... Its curtains... Show is over...

    America is sick and tired of big business getting all the breaks and stealing our money through inflation and strong arm tactics in the market place.... Democrats stand up for the little guy and show us you mean business by going after the crooks and you will take this country in the right direction finally.... else we all be screwed....

    July 2, 2008 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  23. beth - florida

    Hello fellow democrats. Don't say we didn't warn you. Anybody with any smarts saw this coming. Unfortunately even the DNC missed the boat here. Basically Obama supporters will try to vote out most congress members that didn't support Obama and this is just the beginning. Seems like a very divisive policy.

    Anyway, to some of us (Democrats that didnt support Obama in the primary) this is additional proof that its time to leave the DNC party for good.

    Good luck folks.

    July 2, 2008 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  24. vw

    Based on these comments, looks like the darkest day comes to American now.
    Wake up, my fellow citizen, and to vote John MacCain to save USA.

    July 2, 2008 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  25. Myah

    This would not have happened before South Carolina. When Clinton was perceived as fair-minded, the black vote was 50-50. The minute she went "racial", blacks were voting for Barack 90%. Democratic candidates can not expect to talk about their constituents' race and still get support. Do not bite the hand that feeds you.

    I have a friend who's a professor at a local university. In the beginning she and I were talking about supporting Hillary. When the Clintons went "racial", she told me she had switched and said, "It’s a black thing, now". I had to laugh because I had changed to Barack also.

    July 2, 2008 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
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