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. Kimberly

    Prominent African American leaders should ashamed of themselves for not supporting Barack Obama. He is intelligent, articulate, and a true role model especially for our young African American males. I could see if Jesse or Al were running, but Barack is totally different. Now they have to remove the egg off of their faces and come to grips with their decision. They need to feel the heat a little. After all money, power and position can't change your skin color. They are still viewed as black no matter how far they think they have come. Racism is still alive and well.

    July 2, 2008 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  2. Aaron B

    Um.....Still for Hill – you are aware that Mccain stands against EVERYTHING that Hillary believes in and stands for.....are you aware how hypocritical you sound and become when you say something like "Voting McCain, but Still for Hill"....that goes for all Hillary supporters who are planning on voting for Mccain, you guys need to do some serious research, and in fact, you need to LISTEN to the candidate that you adore and support so much when she says "It would be a mistake to vote for McCain"

    July 2, 2008 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |

    Still Waiting for another Rev Wright Sermon that's divisive.
    LOL, when you choose the losing side, things like this occur. Stephanie Tubbs Jones was the loudest one for Clinton in a major swing state.

    She has some major puckering up to do..........Rev Wright Retired .....
    Don't say his name to loud he may answer!!!!!

    July 2, 2008 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  4. ben


    July 2, 2008 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  5. CE

    I agree with STILL FOR HILL. Many of us are not happy with our elected officials who betrayed our trust and supported Obama against the majority of voters in their state.

    2010 might be a bad year for them. We will elect Democrats who truly represent the will of the people.

    If not Hillary, then McCain.

    July 2, 2008 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  6. Colorado for Obama

    How can anyone possibly switch to McCain if they were a Hillary supporter? They have absolutely nothing in common.
    It tells me they were a Hillary supporter just because she was a woman, not because of the issues she fought so hard for – like equal rights, universal healthcare and ending the war in Iraq. I am a woman who supported Edwards and would never consider voting for McCain for those reasons.

    July 2, 2008 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  7. Billy J in the Heart of Texas

    Man.... I still can't believe a guy with Vernon Jordan and Ron Brown as best freinds could be called a racist. A man who has a problem with blacks would not set up shop in Harlem, when he could live anywhere he wanted to. And you don't stay married to that man, if you don't believe in the same things and people he does. But, sure enough even here at work I have had a guy say 'well, I guess the Clintons true colors are showing now'. What?
    And anyone who supported Clinton and stayed with her to the end, deserves a medal for their good sense and loyalty. Instead of the rock star bandwagon thing.
    That said, I am voting for Obama and hoping he doesn't prove to be a liability to black politicians the way Carter has proven to be to the party. (although I think he was doing the best he could, he had a real mess to work with, and he was trying to stay squeaky clean mister nice guy while doing it. Sound familiar?)

    July 2, 2008 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  8. okbiograd

    This is sad. Thanks to BHO and his race-baiting campaign, race relations have been disrupted and pushed back about 50 years.
    Thanks for the "UNITY", BO.

    ROFLMAO!!!!!!! to "mitchell hussein martin". More (scary) change you can believe in.

    July 2, 2008 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  9. MK

    I think it would be a great idea for Obama to make a statement about NOT dissing these Congresspeople just because they supported Hillary over him. That would help to demonstrate that he really means Unity.

    July 2, 2008 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  10. Jenna

    Maxine Waters is a great lady, sounds like the so called "Reprocussions" are a violation of "freedon of Speech"or thought, Expression. "Freedom from the cronies to try and do you in if you did not believe the way they did." "Sounds like a bunch of Bullies to me." Maxine will always have my vote, whereever she goes. Maybe she will even contemplate leaving the Democratic party, or is the Democratic Party leaving her? Like Ronald Reagan...

    Democrat upset with the Democratic Party

    July 2, 2008 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  11. FayeinCT

    I don't want to see Hillary on a ticket with Obama. She needs to far away when he falls.
    I think a lot of people in congress are worried about their seats and they should be.

    July 2, 2008 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  12. Jenna

    Maxine Waters is a great lady, sounds like the so called "Reprocussions" are a violation of "freedon of Speech"or thought, Expression. "Freedom from the cronies to try and do you in if you did not believe the way they did." "Sounds like a bunch of Bullies to me." Maxine will always have my vote, whereever she goes. Maybe she will even contemplate leaving the Democratic party, or is the Democratic Party leaving her? Like Ronald Reagan...

    American Indian Democrat upset with the Democratic Party

    July 2, 2008 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  13. C!

    HEYYY why didn't you approve my last comment? I censored it... ehhhh stupid CNN!

    OBAMA `08!

    July 2, 2008 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  14. Jenna

    Maxine Waters has it right, she is color blind. She no matter what any constituants say will be highly successful becuase of this. I am an American Indian and my husband is caucasion, we love her, she is one of our favorite elected officials here in Los Angeles California.

    We love you Maxine....

    July 2, 2008 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  15. Texans for Obama

    Well I know Maxine Waters changed her superdelegate vote at the very last minute. Yes, I am afraid these people will probrably face some challenges the next time they are up for election in their districts which are mostly African Americans.

    To Jimmy Velman, if you don't know about black liberation theology , just give up trying to understand black churches and some of their preaching styles. But don't hate on a subject you know not a thing about okay. Take African American Studies one day.

    I wish people would just let the past be just that and move on with their lives. Hillary lost get over it. People are tired of hearing the crying on these blogs about her run for president. I really fault the media for always bringing up the subject of race and starting conflicts among the races. The rest of this campaign will be on polls between the whites and blacks. Lord, we really need to start praying in this country for unity.

    July 2, 2008 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  16. not important

    Hillary supporters do you know who Phil Gramm is?

    July 2, 2008 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  17. Terrence (Winston Salem, NC)

    I really can't wait to see Stephanie Tubbs Jones get outted. Maxine Waters and Kilpatrick just endorsed Clinton. Tubbs-Jones tried to really drive the knife in Obama's campaign on every turn. The voters will remember her actions.

    July 2, 2008 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  18. vINCe


    July 2, 2008 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  19. Obama the flip flopper

    I am not for it, I am not against it – I just want to be President.

    July 2, 2008 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  20. Sharon

    Obama brought Chicago Style Campaign Techniques to the presidential election.

    The dirtiest, ugliest, evilest campaigning In history. Running the most horrible smear campaigns against people. He is the one the demon of politics.

    He is the one that made the Presidential Race about Race, and continues. Evident it was not Hillary. It was him all along.Race is the reason Obama is running for President.

    Remember he said he was not going to run, he wanted wait a few years, His friends pushed him when he was not ready. Probably why he is so unstable and can't stand on any issues, and changes his mind so much. He is not ready or prepared to take on the job of President. What keeps him going is his vow and oath to the Black Community to fulfill.

    The Black Community will get what they want and were promised, After that Obama will still not be prepared to run the Country.

    July 2, 2008 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  21. WoMaN4McCain

    If you were smart must be one of those PUMA tards. lmao

    July 2, 2008 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  22. Liz T

    Give us facts, CNN, not conjecture. What makes you think these black representatives have anything to explain or that Obama is going to want an explanation? If they support him now, that is all we need. Prefab news is not needed.

    July 2, 2008 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  23. Matt, Canoga Park

    Considering most of the United States has a poor and dismal view of Congress as a whole with the "Black Congress" included in that as well. And none of them have done a satisfactory job in the past few years. I would think that any member of congress should be fearing for their job this election or the next.

    And well they should. Fire the whole lot and vote for anyone that was not already a memeber of the worst Congress in the History of the United States.

    July 2, 2008 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  24. mike caroline co. va

    republicans are a dead horse. you all seem to be racist & arrogant beyond belief. you call yourself conservative. why didnt yall conserve the 4100 plus dead service men & women? what about the tens of thousands of wounded? & PLEASE don't forget the 650 BILLION dollars YOUR fearless jerk has thrown into that horseshoe pit called iraq

    July 2, 2008 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  25. Nia - Phoenix, AZ

    GOOD!! some of those seats need to be cleared out. Replace the old with new blood. The only reason some were Clinton supporters is because they knew they could still have a job and do nothing.

    July 2, 2008 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
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