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. Marc PDX

    Hilarious (or should I say "Hillary-ous"?). I'm a republican and I can't stand Hillary. But, a racist??? Where did that come from? I didn't see racism on her part during the primary. She seemed like she went out of her way to avoid it. I didn't see sexism either, by the way (I know some in Hillary's camp claimed that).

    This just looks like Obama's supporters want an "ethnic cleansing" within the democratic party now that they've won the primary. Honestly, this doesn't look like "Change you can believe in" to me. It looks like an internal democratic blood bath in the making. Who ever expected that to happen to the Clintons. But, really, Obama is not as nice as he would have you believe ("believe" sure comes up a lot from Obama).

    NObama N'08!

    July 2, 2008 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  2. Dems be dopes

    "Change you can believe in"

    Especally if it is in your pockets, and I'm coming to get it.

    I'll also need to order bigger and better busses as the election draws near....

    July 2, 2008 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  3. Weepy

    The Black Caucus is the most openly racist group in this country. What this country needs is an "honest to goodness" Black-White Caucus. Don't tell me that the black's in this country aren't the biggest racists!! And they whine and complain and shout racism at the drop of a hat!

    July 2, 2008 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  4. tony

    the goose step continues

    July 2, 2008 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  5. Cynthia

    They should have voted along with their constituents but chose not to. John Lewis in Georgia saw the handwriting on the wall and changed. I also think that Maxine Waters changed as well.

    July 2, 2008 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  6. Glen (who originally voted for Clinton)

    Bob from NY: There is no need for a "Congressional White Caucus," or any other white group while Caucasians make up the majority.

    STILL FOR HILL: Clinton and Obama are almost exactly the same when it comes to the issues, while Clinton and McCain couldn't be any more different. Any true Democrat who supported Clinton, but is now voting for McCain, is doing so out of spite.

    July 2, 2008 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  7. Erika, KS

    Obama doesn't want the party united! Good lord, if he did, he'd have nothing to talk about, and no would listen. The DNC made the wrong choice. You Obamanites made the wrong choice also. You're all wacky and not paying attention to the real issues. Obama can talk, talk, talk all day long. What's he really saying? Change. Change. Change. How's he going to do that? Details? Specifics? No? Nothing? You people are being sold a bill of goods! I've always been a democrat and there's no way in hell I can support this closet racist, egotistical, American hating fool who will throw everyone under the bus to get what he wants! He expects everyone to fall in line. Too bad buddy. We are right to question you. You are wrong to question those who question you. Sorry. I'd love to be able to support the democratic cause, but you just aren't the answer.

    July 2, 2008 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  8. Texan for Obama

    Still For Hill you are the reason politics have become disgusting. Are you voting in a popularity contest or basing your decision on the issues? If it's the issues you seek than your choice of McCain makes no sense as he and Hillary disagree on most of what's at stake. Study some politics before making comments like that. I would rather you sit at home and watch the people who actually pay attention to the issues at hand vote.

    July 2, 2008 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  9. gary


    July 2, 2008 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  10. Jackson

    race appears to be far more of an issue in the black community than it does the white ... which is why it was so easy for NObama's Camp to label the Clinton's racist even though they had worked very hard for the black community for years ... all it takes is one moment in time to change everything. NObama is NOT GOOD for America.

    July 2, 2008 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  11. Ian

    Does this mean that our out of control spending is going to get worse?

    See you in the food line!!!

    July 2, 2008 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  12. boered1

    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.


    Spoken like a true MORONIC Clintonista, while I will grant you that Obama challenged the petitions of other candidates he did it on STRICTLY FAIR AND LEGAL GROUNDS. Your attempt to make it somehow seem underhanded for him to make sure only REAL AND LEGALLY SIGNED NAMES, AS REQUIRED BY LAW, were affixed to these petitions is somehow a dirty underhanded trick will not work and has been refuted multiple times but like most of the moronic clintonistas you do not let FACTS and reality interfere with your blind hatred! Just as a reminder more people supported Obama than the liar hillary and if you think any of us will forget your threats and lies this campaign in the liar hillary's next campaign you are even bigger fools than we know you to be already! No liar hillary now no liar hillary ever! She will need us the next time she runs for office and depending on how you and your lilk support obama NOW will reflect on her ever winning anything again!

    Towards the subject in the article I guess maybe supporting a liar has consequences and you have to be willing to pay the price when you make a mistake. Have no doubt about it those who have lied and distorted Obama's record will end up paying the price for their lies.

    July 2, 2008 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  13. david b

    umm .. @if you were smart

    By challenging the petitions Obama was following the rules, it was the other candidates that did not. Besides that they had such razor thin margins on their petitions that challenging bad signatures (which is a normal practice in any petition race) resulted in booting them from the race.

    Feel free to be cynical. But there is no reason to listen to your whining that one of the candidates *gasp* actually follows the published rules of the election and doesnt want them changed when it suits a handy purpose. (read h.Clinton.)

    July 2, 2008 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  14. dEMOBRAT

    I am so sick of hearing about people blaming racism on those who do not support Obama.

    If Obama doesn't get elected president I am sure we will be bombarded by op-eds on why America is so racist.


    July 2, 2008 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  15. Patrick

    But I thought it was Obama who made Hillary's camp seem racist. They completely earned what they are now getting.

    July 2, 2008 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  16. Dave

    Bob from NY: I think the Congressional White Caucus is simply known as The Congress. Don't be so naive to be offended by something signifying Black people have only had 40 years of complete equal rights as everyone else in this country–fact, not opinion. You're the kind of guy who's probably offended by the BET channel when you have 200 other channels to choose from. Wake up.

    As long as these Caucus members have done right by their constituents and fall in line with their support of Obama, they'll be just fine in 2010.

    July 2, 2008 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  17. Trudi

    That's works both ways. There are a large number of Hillary supporters that are helping to fund Ed O'Reilley's campaign against Kerry.

    July 2, 2008 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  18. Marc PDX

    Every time the Obamas screw America I'm going to be picturing the fist bump in the oval office. And Reverend Jeremiah dancing and singing in front of the congregation. Change you can believe in... oh boy!

    UH-OHbama '08

    July 2, 2008 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  19. Kevin

    Race again brought up by Obama supporters...go figure!

    July 2, 2008 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  20. JCB

    People are forgetting that Clinton won the popular vote in those states. Obama even took his name off the ballot in Michigan. Why should these political leaders take any flack for backing Hillary - they supported the pick of their voters. Nothing racist there. Just solid politics. Of these women, Kilpatrick is the only one that should receive flack. She should not have been neutral - she should have backed hers state citizens' choice - Clinton.

    July 2, 2008 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  21. sick of stupidity

    jimmy velman....FYI the Black Liberation Theology has been defined. Maybe you should do some studying up before you post stupid comments.

    This theology maintains that African Americans must be liberated from multiple forms of bondage — social, political, economic and religious. Black consciousness and the black experience of oppression orient black liberation theology. This liberation involves empowerment and seeks the right of self-definition, self-affirmation and self-determination

    July 2, 2008 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  22. Peter E

    And you still don't think the Obama team is bullying his own party?
    What hypocrites!

    July 2, 2008 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  23. Keep It Real

    Cry me a river. These are the same AA wanting to wag a hypocritical finger at many of their black consituents who preferred Obama over Clinton like we'd been out in the sun too long picking cotton and didn't know our own minds. It's their right to be a Clinton supporter just like it is my right not to be whether I'm AA, a woman or both. Funny how none of them will even acknowledge the self-inflicted wounds garnered by racially motived attacks sublte and otherwise that the Clinton campaign engaged in like a polical incorrect joke being told on the downlow at a cocktail party, but would rather stick heads in the sand and claim all the racially diviseness was on Sen. Obama's side only. Puhleeze. Sell that line of bull elsewhere. I know what I heard and saw on both sides. I didn't buy the poor done wrong Hillary routine from Hillary and I'm not buying it from other educated, wealthy, AA's whom preferred her for personal and polical reasons over Barack. Get over yourselves.

    July 2, 2008 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  24. Nunya

    "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."

    Uh, somebody's not paying attention here... Kansas supported Obama over Hillary by almost 3-1. And Missouri (McCaskill's state) also voted Obama, although much more narrowly...

    July 2, 2008 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  25. Peter E

    Ooo, some polls show McCain within a few percentage of Obama! Quick, press the 'racism' panic button a couple of times to pump the polls back up!

    July 2, 2008 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
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