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Hillary Clinton Picks Up Major Endorsement Of Top South Carolina Democrat

HuffPost logo HuffPost 19/02/2016 Eliot Nelson
ATHENA IMAGE © John Locher/Associated Press ATHENA IMAGE

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Hillary Clinton's campaign scored a major endorsement Friday when Rep. James Clyburn, the third-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives and the unofficial dean of South Carolina's Democratic Party, endorsed Clinton's presidential campaign. 

The endorsement came during a press conference at Allen University. 

Clyburn, who has previously served as House Majority Whip and chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, is a deeply revered figure among the state's black community.

In addition to serving 12 terms in Congress, Clyburn began his political career as a civil rights activist in the state, leading his local NAACP chapter at the age of 12 and playing a central role organizing against the state's Jim Crow laws while studying at South Carolina State College, a historically black institution. 

The endorsement, first reported by The State Thursday night, comes at a crucial juncture for the Clinton campaign. Democratic voters are set to caucus on Saturday in Nevada, where a sizable number of the party's caucusgoers are African-American. Moreover, it comes just over a week before Democratic voters cast their primary ballots in South Carolina, a majority of whose Democratic voters are African-American. 

Clinton has enjoyed sizable leads in recent Palmetto State polls, and as such cannot afford to win by a slim margin. A Clyburn endorsement goes a long way in padding Clinton's margins here. 

Clyburn's endorsement also helps Clinton's attempts to maintain her support among African-Americans nationwide. Her opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), has been trying to chip away at Clinton's standing with that constituency, racking up the endorsements of numerous progressive African-American figures, including Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and Erica Garner, the daughter of Eric Garner, whose death at the hands of several New York Police Department officers was caught on tape.

The Clinton campaign has been wooing Clyburn for some time. During a campaign stop in Aiken, South Carolina, on Tuesday, Clinton's husband, former President Bill Clinton, praised Clyburn for his work on behalf of the state and endorsed one of his policy proposals to combat poverty. 

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