- The Washington Times - Friday, September 14, 2007

The California Legislative Black Caucus decided yesterday to endorse Sen. Barack Obama“s presidential bid, giving him organizing ability and a political boost in the biggest prize on the primary map.

“It”s imperative that we choose the candidate who is committed to addressing the disparity gaps that exist in our communities,” said Karen Bass, the vice chairman of the caucus and majority leader of the California Assembly.

The caucus called Mr. Obama, Illinois Democrat, “the only candidate that can unite people to get things done.”

By backing Mr. Obama, the caucus helps balance out Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, his chief opponent for the Democratic presidential nomination, who has been endorsed by top Hispanics in California, such as Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez.

The Obama campaign said it is looking to win all of the early voting states — Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada — in order to have a chance at securing the nomination. They hope to use momentum from those states to win a majority of the more than 20 states that will vote Feb. 5.

To do that, the campaign will need as many ground troops as possible to energize and mobilize voters.

That’s why Ms. Bass, who personally endorsed Mr. Obama’s campaign in May, is so critical. She is a veteran community organizer who has spent much of her career organizing get-out-the-vote efforts in Los Angeles.

Yesterday’s caucus endorsement wasn’t unanimous. One of the eight members, Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, had endorsed Mrs. Clinton.

In the fight for endorsements in Washington, Mr. Obama has won several key members of the Congressional Black Caucus, including from some who were expected to endorse Mrs. Clinton.

Reps. Artur Davis of Alabama, Jesse L. Jackson Jr. of Illinois, Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland and House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers of Michigan, lined up behind Mr. Obama before the summer.

He also secured the endorsement of Rep. Bobby L. Rush, Illinois Democrat, in January.

Mr. Rush called the decision “one of the most difficult decisions that I’ve had to make in politics.”

Although both Mr. Obama and Mr. Rush represent Chicago’s South Side, they had not been the closest of political allies since Mr. Obama challenged him for his congressional seat in 2000.

Winning endorsements from the Congressional Black Caucus is important because many of those members were ardent supporters of the Clintons in the 1990s, including Mr. Cummings, Mr. Conyers, Mr. Rush and Rep. Sanford D. Bishop Jr. of Georgia.

Mr. Bishop and freshman Rep. Hank Johnson, also of Georgia, both endorsed Mr. Obama this week, while the remaining Georgia Democrats in the House — Reps. John Lewis, David Scott, John Barrow and Jim Marshall — have yet to make decisions.

“I believe Senator Obama truly understands the needs of Georgians within the greater context of changing our nation for the better,” said Mr. Bishop, noting that his endorsement came under heavy pressure from the Clinton campaign and what he called the “Arkansas Mafia.”

Perhaps the biggest endorsement Mr. Obama has secured is from “the queen of daytime television,” Oprah Winfrey.

Miss Winfrey hosted a 5,000-person fundraiser for Mr. Obama over the weekend that netted the campaign $3 million. She also has the ability to reach millions of female voters through her show.

One endorsement the campaign is unlikely to get is that of House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn, South Carolina Democrat and the senior black lawmaker in Congress.

Mr. Clyburn, who is also the highest-ranking black politician in the state’s history, has made a deal not to endorse any candidate in order to protect his state’s early primary position.

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