Clyburn says he's surprised Booker, Harris haven't taken off in South Carolina

House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn revealed that he anticipated “much more of a surge” in support for 2020 Democrats Cory Booker and Kamala Harris in his home state of South Carolina — an early primary test of presidential candidates’ appeal to black voters.

Clyburn, a 14-term lawmaker and the highest-ranking African American in Congress, told NBC News in an interview published Friday that Booker and Harris have "been a little bit of amazement to me as well, because I thought for sure that there would be much more of a surge and I can’t quite figure that out yet.”

Clyburn offered assessments of why the two U.S. senators, both people of color, have not presented a more credible challenge to former Vice President Joe Biden, who tops the expansive field of Democratic White House contenders in South Carolina. More than 60 percent of the state’s Democratic voters are African American.

Clyburn said Booker, of New Jersey, “is suffering from the shadows, coming out from under the shadows of Barack Obama," and charged that Harris, of California, "hasn’t spelled out the policy stuff with her vision."

"Of course, I just thought Kamala because this just seemed to be the year of the black woman. I thought she would be surging a little more than she is," Clyburn said.

Clyburn said Biden is leading South Carolina primary polling because of his "long history" in the Palmetto State, adding of Biden’s dominance: “It doesn’t surprise me.” Clyburn has rushed this week to defend Biden as the 2020 frontrunner faces bipartisan criticism and continued political fallout over remarks he made about working with segregationist lawmakers during his time in the Senate.

A CBS News survey conducted by YouGov earlier this month shows that 45 percent of Democrats favor Biden to win the party’s 2020 nomination, followed by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders at 18 percent, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren at 8 percent, Harris at 7 percent and Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., at 6 percent.

Booker and former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke trail those candidates, both with 4 percent.

Clyburn later Friday is scheduled to host his “World Famous Fish Fry” in the state capital of Columbia. Oval Office aspirants embark on a quadrennial pilgrimage to the event during election season, and nearly all of the 24 Democratic candidates vying to take on President Donald Trump are set to attend.

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