Like Voters, Black Politicians are Split on Hillary and Obama

Today, 20 members of the CBC support Obama, 17 align with Clinton, and four remain undecided.

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Along with Latinos and women, here's another base of support for Sen. Hillary Clinton that the surging Sen. Barack Obama is eroding: black leadership. Last year, Clinton racked up high-profile endorsements from members of the Congressional Black Caucus, including Reps. Charles Rangel and John Lewis. That has changed since Obama set Clinton on her heels in the race for the White House. Obama has piled up endorsements from Reps. G. K. Butterfield and Eddie Bernice Johnson and Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, among others.

Today, 20 members of the caucus support Obama, 17 align with Clinton, and four remain undecided. As Obama notches wins, some Washington insiders say those black legislators who support Clinton are in a bind. Not only is there a desire to support the first would-be black president (and a CBC member), but many apparently are not choosing the same candidate as their constituents. Indeed, though he has endorsed Clinton, Lewis on Feb. 14 told the New York Times he would cast his superdelegate vote for Obama because voters in his Georgia district overwhelmingly chose the Illinois senator. "That's rule No. 1 in politics—be where your constituents are," says Rep. Danny Davis of Illinois, an Obama supporter and CBC member. "I have spoken with individuals who have lamented in a way, kind of saying, 'I wish I had waited a little bit longer.'"

Others argue that the idea of supporting Obama because of his race is demeaning. "Blacks are not under any pressure to vote black," says Democratic strategist Donna Brazile. "Nor should women be under any pressure to vote female. Can't we just judge on who is best qualified to lead America?"