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Black lawmakers divided on Obama

Jan. 17, 2008 at 7:26 PM

WASHINGTON, Jan. 17 (UPI) -- Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama is vying to become the first African-American to be president yet many black lawmakers are not backing him.

More than a third of the black members of Congress are backing the junior senator from Illinois' rivals: Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., or former Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., Politico.com reported Thursday.

Among Clinton's supporters are civil rights pioneer Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., and the powerful House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., -- both of whom have said their endorsements didn't hinge on race.

In their endorsements, Lewis and Rangel cited their longstanding relationships with the Clintons as well as a respect for Hillary Clinton's experience in national politics.

Since Obama's win in the Iowa Democratic caucuses, however, some African-American lawmakers are pointing to the Clinton backers and calling them political opportunists who did not believe in the electability of a black nominee.

"They are all professional politicians, and the first thing professional politicians learn is to try to be where they think it is more politically advantageous to be," said Rep. Danny Davis, D-Ill., an Obama supporter.

"Many people will go with that which is projected, as opposed to going where there is no path and helping to blaze a trail," he added.

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