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. robert

    Obama a change for the worst, Stay away from this loser hillary.

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

    Obama stretches the truth. His latest ad, stating he worked his way through college, isn't right. Check out, factcheck.

    July 2, 2008 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  3. patrick

    I have a feeling a much bigger albatross around Mrs. Kilpatrick's neck is the controversy surrounding the conduct of her son, Kwamie, Mayor of Detroit, and his upcoming criminal trial for Perjury.

    July 2, 2008 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  4. Ardnuas

    The media is trying HARD to get John McCain elected, so in 2009 when he starts a WAR in Iran will will know who to blame. McCain is FULL of ANGER and he LACKS JUDGEMENT ( the media knows it)

    July 2, 2008 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  5. James, SC

    What this article fails to mention is that ALL these folks have placed their support behind Senator Obama. Why would he turn against them now or during the 2010 election cycle if he becomes President? Wouldn't that destroy his chance for re-election in 2012? Except for Kilpatrick I would vote for all the others.

    What makes the reporter feel that black like white and all the other folks in America can't support someone who did not initially agree with them?

    So, now only white Americans can be dynamic thinkers?

    This is one of the greatest insults against African Americans during this election so far.

    July 2, 2008 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  6. Toni

    I'd been writing to the CBC over their dealings with FOX news during the debates. As arrogant and self-serving a bunch of power-mongers I'll never meet again ... and I'M black!

    July 2, 2008 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  7. Stand for something! Ohio

    I don't think that people should be punished for voting the way they believe. I feel that if they were just "afraid" to support Obama then they get what they deserve. However, who plays it straight anymore when it comes to politics?

    July 2, 2008 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  8. Kelby from Houston, TX

    Dear Bob from NY,
    The congressional white caucus is called the Legislative branch.

    July 2, 2008 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  9. John McCain

    All of your bases is belonging to us! Please to show me how to work the computer that make Iran go boom.

    July 2, 2008 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  10. John McCain

    The congress IS a white caucus.

    July 2, 2008 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  11. Loretta from California

    My vote is not dependent upon what Democratic nominee you do or do not support for the Presidency. You had better get out there and prove to me that you are willing to work on my behalf and for the good of the American people.

    July 2, 2008 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  12. Kelby from Houston, TX

    this story is divisive to the Democratic party. The primary is over a nominee has been chosen and we are in the midst uniting the party after a very long primary.
    Nice try, but I can see through it.
    It's like you can't help but have positive press on Obama. But you need to even things out, if for no other reason than to create the appearance of being unbiased.
    I know you're trying to stay nuetral CNN but the facts and the people involved are polarized. One is right and one is wrong.
    Having said all of that, I still applaude you for your attempt to appear nuetral


    July 2, 2008 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  13. No McBush

    The Democrats are united. Republicans, just hold your breath and wait for division.

    July 2, 2008 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  14. DeniseGA

    Kilpatricks race has nothing to do with Obama/Clinton. Her son the disgraced Mayor of Detroit, has a lot to do with it! Blame Kwame not Obama! They should have spoken to Clinton about turning the Primaries negative. That has more to do with it than race!

    July 2, 2008 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  15. Andy

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

    Hopefully after 6 years of this, the American people will realize that they had enough of high taxation and socialism that they throw these two out.

    July 2, 2008 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  16. Obama/Clinton '08

    I am an Obama supporter, but I don't think we should try to punish people who didn't support him.

    We won, and we shouldn't be sore winners.

    We already have enough sore losers from Clinton-world.

    July 2, 2008 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  17. MD in GA

    These folks had to know this was a possibility. Probably would have been better to remain neutral. John Lewis' flip flop hear in Georgia didn't serve him well.

    July 2, 2008 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  18. Kelby from Houston, TX

    It's people like you who scare me. People who have become so embittered that they would sacrafice the good of the country because your candidate did not win. If you ever believed in anything that Hillary Clinton was running for, YOU WOULD NOT VOTE FOR MCCAIN.
    If you thought that universal healthcare, an end to the Iraq war and bringing our troops home. If you ever wanted to truly improve our educations system, if you ever believed in anything that she Hillary Clinton stood for during this election YOU WOULD NOT VOTE FOR MCCAIN.

    Honestly, how do you justify this position without appearing petty and ignorant?

    July 2, 2008 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  19. PCC

    McCain for me too.....I just can not bring myself to vote for someone like Obama and his friends....To many of Obama 's friends hate America ...Why would anyone be friends with these kind of people....Obama's grandmother's words made him cringe but wright's words didn't ...Wonder why wrights didn't make Obama cringe ?

    July 2, 2008 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  20. Belle2

    What is the point here? Is the Black Caucus threatening all elected officials who did not support Obama from the beginning.

    Change you better believe in.

    July 2, 2008 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  21. Tom

    "and are now having to deal with the repercussions." – You should live in Oregon... If you tell people you did not vote for Obama you get called a raciest before you get to even tell them you will vote for him in the GE...

    or i was...

    Until the Obama supporters got so crazy

    July 2, 2008 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  22. Kathy in Oregon

    This is ridiculous!

    I can' beleive that the black leaders who supported Hillary in the primaries are going to be PUNISHED by their black constituents for not endorsing Obama simply because he is BLACK.

    C'mon folks. They are both democrats who share similar positions on the issues. Obama better address this DIVISION in the party that he helped to create (by playing the race card against the Clintons).

    If Obama stands by silently while his supprters go after the Dems who backed Hillary – HE is unworthy of the presidency!

    July 2, 2008 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  23. Idiots for McCain

    I used to like Hillary, now I think I'll vote for McCain. Sure, I'd like to see an end to the war in Iraq, but I'm kind of mad at the DNC and at Obama for beating Hillary, so I'll vote for McCain even though he will keep this war going.

    I certainly don't want women to lose the right to choose, but I am feeling very upset that I didn't get my way in the primaries. How else can I show the DNC how angry I am? By voting for McCain, that's how! Sure, he will nominate more conservative Supreme Court Justices who will ultimately overturn Roe Vs. Wade and women will lose their right to choose, but at least the DNC will know how angry I am...

    I realize that Obama's policies on most issues are nearly identical to what Hillary's are, but I'll vote for McCain anyway, since I never really cared about the issues to begin with. I just wanted to elect a woman president!

    It would have been nice to have a president with sound economic policies in order to fix the economic mess we're in, but I think I'll vote for McCain instead because I decided months ago that I didn't like Obama because he was beating Hillary. I know that McCain has no clue about how to fix our economy, but at least he isn't the guy who beat Hillary...

    So I encourage all of you dissappointed Hillary supporters to join me in my tantrum. We didn't get our way, so none of the Democrats should get their way either, dang it! We'll show them. Won't they be sorry when we are still losing our sons and daughters to a pointless war that is costing us trillions. Won't they wish they had nominated Hillary as our economic recession deepens ( even though Obama might have implemented some policies that were pretty similar to HIllary's...). Won't the DNC be sorry when women lose their right to choose... Oh wait, maybe I'm the one who will be sorry...

    July 2, 2008 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  24. Matt

    Bob from NY July 2nd, 2008 4:24 pm ET

    What about the "Congressional White Cacus?"

    That's the rest of Congress, dingbat. Don't be a moron.

    July 2, 2008 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  25. T GUY


    July 2, 2008 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
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