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. Dave, Illinois

    If this was not so sad, it would be funny. Why a majority of black people support a party who's best interest includes keeping them disenfranchised and angry is beyond me.
    If Obama wins, then there is no longer an excuse for affirmative action. So, even though I disagree with Obama on most everything, that might not be so bad. Maybe then, by lifting the insult of affirmative action, the black people will have enough pride in their own accomplishements and realize they are independant and proud people able to get by without government. Then, the Democrats loose votes.

    July 2, 2008 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  2. jason twombley- missouri

    Clinton...as VP ? never gonna happen in this day and age....WE THE PEOPLE saw her lies, her greed, her self before anyone, attitude....bye bye Hillary, we dont want you in the white house

    July 2, 2008 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  3. Peter E

    What did you expect? Obama's entire primary campaign was based on parroting attacks against Hillary. Now that he demonstrated that it worked, all Obama supporters are trying to replicate it. (while ignoring issues all together, just simply repeat 'I hate Clinton')

    July 2, 2008 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  4. Ann, MI

    Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick is mother of the mayor of Detroit, i.e. the thug known as Kwame. I imagine she couldn't get re-elected merely because the taint of her son's numerous felony charges.

    July 2, 2008 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  5. pundit

    I do not get it? I have heard no such talk in the "hood". I am a long time Hil supporter who towards the end saw a freshness in Obama.

    Also as a liberal (proud of it) the fall of Bushee is similar to all other GOP presidents except Reagan (I voted for him because of his tax policy ) Obama is a change , articulate ,young, from a city, knows the language and in fact knows everthing just like all of us who respond to these comments. Everybody is a pundit. 8 more years of Bush, oh I meant McCain. Or is it Rove, Chenny and TEXAS OIL.

    July 2, 2008 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  6. Cryos

    The new left needs to purge the democratic party of the old left. I mean come on the old left actually had independance, rational thought, etc.

    What do you need that for when there are 3rd world countries to give away money to and idealist eutopian issues to follow?

    July 2, 2008 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  7. JoeSky

    What is going on with this country?!

    This is like North Korea where everyone has to declare their faith to King Jong-Li.

    July 2, 2008 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  8. Robert

    Still for Hill, you have no idea what you're talking about if you think the popular governor from my state of Oklahoma has anything to worry about because of who he did or did not support. He also waited an appropriate amount of time after the Feb 5 Primary to throw his endorsement in. No worries for Brad Henry.

    From the sound of things up north, I don't think Sebelius is looking over her shoulder either.

    July 2, 2008 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  9. Vig

    Hillary Clinton should be the next President of the USA. She told us she found her voice and was quickly gagged by the male controlled media, the male controlled Democratic party and various other media types. They snuffed-out Clinton and who was the beneficiary Obama – it;s time we had a female authorative in the White House. Free Hillary – Reject the Flippity FLop Boys – Print-In Hillary on your November ballot and restore justice.

    July 2, 2008 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  10. jimmy velman

    DEMOCRATS: GET YOUR ACT TOGETHER. OBAMA HAS THE EDGE RIGHT NOW AND LOOKS GOOD THRU NOVEMBER.
    OBAMA HAS GENERAL WESLEY CLARK IN HIS CORNER AND IS A GIVEN FOR ANY CABINET POST HE WANTS.

    SENATOR McCAIN THOUGH REALLY DIFFERENT FROM BUSH
    HAS TO CARRY THE MESS BEING LEFT BY THE PRESENT ADMINISTRATION THRU NO FAULT OF HIS.
    WHAT IF SENATOR McCAIN CAN CONVINCINGLY PERSUADE GENERAL COLIN POWELL TO JOIN HIM AS HIS VP?
    THE WHOLE PICTURE OF OBAMA BEING ELECTED BEGINS TO TAKE A NEW AND NOT SO ROSY PICTURE COME NOVEMBER.

    July 2, 2008 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  11. sarah

    oh yeah let the racism begin, " you did not vote for obama so you are a racist and must be reprogrammed." last time i checked this was a free country where we could vote for and support the candidate of our choice with no reprisals. i was not informed that our political system had changed so that, like Zimbabwee, if we don't vote for a certain candidate, we will be punished.

    July 2, 2008 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  12. Justmy02

    This is racism at its worst. For people to fear losing their congressional seats because they supported Hillary Clinton is shameful.

    What is happening to this country? Is everyone who does not support Obama going to have to fear for their jobs and maybe even their lives?

    This is the U.S., not Germany...isn't it? Or are we soon going to hear the sound of legions of jackbooted Obamabots as they march for their 'fuehrer'?

    Unbelieveable...*shakes head*

    July 2, 2008 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  13. Peter E

    Vote Obama '08!

    There, can my comment make it past the liberal media filter now? Or will I get banned finally because I dare to point out the hypocritic double-standards of the Obama campaign and their media lackeys?

    July 2, 2008 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  14. June

    Why is everything concerning Barack Obama always blown out of proportion. I belive the people have spoken and "it is what it is," HE WON...SO LET'S MOVE ON!!!!
    I wish the media would stop making a mountain out of a mole hill!!! I'm Black and I don't know of anyone "attacking" these Representatives. We need to focus on the fight ahead in November. We've won the battle...now we need to win the war.

    Obama 2008

    July 2, 2008 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  15. The Questioner

    Wait, wait. When did Obama petition to make his name the only name on the ballot? Clinton was the only big name on the Michigan ballot, maybe that's what you guys are thinking of.

    July 2, 2008 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  16. Rob indetroit

    NO wories there will be unity . so get over it all you haters.

    July 2, 2008 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  17. Phil, FL

    Media sure is digging deep – wonder when they'll bring up Jon Benet Ramsey again ---

    July 2, 2008 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  18. len

    So the questions about racist support from the black community are answered with a resounding yes?

    Not good. Maybe the sure course is to vote Republican, accept a minority party in the Oval Office and skip the bit where we try to resurrect JFK for the sake of a myth that never was and start yet another decade of uncertainty in social justice.

    I'd really rather fix the economy and get out of Iraq at this time.

    July 2, 2008 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  19. IH - Ohio

    Stephanie Tubbs Jones was cleary the most visible and went over board in her support for HRC. She could certainly support HRC (but like Hillary) but be so negative against Obama – this was very dissappointing. Though she was unopposed in the primary, I just couldn't vote for her and will not again in the general.

    July 2, 2008 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  20. Reese from NC

    The only Hillary supporter I take issue who was noted above is Stephanie Tubbs Jones. I had no problems with her supporting Clinton, but I took issue with how. She had a very nasty tone at times and could be quite dismissive of Obama as a candidate. I felt she did not respect him and made no attempt to even try to fake it. It is OK to build your candidate up, but not by tearing down the other.

    July 2, 2008 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  21. pam Eugene OR

    They did not choose wisely and there is always a price to pay for that!
    Obama 08

    July 2, 2008 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  22. Democrat in LA

    All those Clinton supporters planning to vote for McCain, I hope McCain wins, and I hope he and his administration send the women's movement back into the stone age (as they want to do), and I hope all of you, on your deathbeds, with a stacked supreme court, reversed women's rights, and men running the show, can be proud of your "movement" and what it's accomplished in the name of "protesting the sexism" of the Obama campaign.

    Your daughters, granddaughters, and great-granddaughters will be ever so grateful for what you've bestowed upon them. Good work, ladies.

    July 2, 2008 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  23. OPEN YOU MIND

    I AM WAITING FOR" RACE "NOT TO BE THE UNDERLINING ISSUE IN THIS CAMPAIGN!

    July 2, 2008 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  24. Silence DoNoGood

    He's trying to run the campaign the way he did in Chicago when the big boys had his back. We are seeing more and more of his true colors shining through. Could be the big boys still have his back since there seem to be more and more people on his list that he doesn't "need", to win the election.
    What do you think about a candidate that turns on the people in his own party? To threaten to take their seat because they didn't support him in the beginning and put his own people in doesn't sound like democracy to me.
    Sounds like "change", some might have second thoughts believing in.

    July 2, 2008 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  25. JOHN

    TUBBS JONES SHOULD BE ON THE COVER OF WHERE ARE THEY NOW. WHAT A FAKE. SO SHE SHOULD PAY THE PRICE. GOOD LUCK T.J.

    July 2, 2008 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
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