WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Jim Clyburn, the No. 3 Democrat in the House of Representatives and an influential black lawmaker from the early voting state of South Carolina, is expected on Wednesday to endorse Joe Biden’s presidential bid, according to a Politico report on Sunday.
Reuters could not independently verify that the endorsement was forthcoming. A representative for Clyburn called any reports that he had decided whom to endorse “speculative.”
Clyburn’s endorsement could be significant ahead of South Carolina’s primary on Saturday, the Democrats’ fourth presidential nominating contest. A majority of Democratic voters in the state are black.
The Post and Courier newspaper in Charleston, South Carolina, reported that Clyburn in an interview after reports that he had decided, insisted he was not settled on a candidate and was still considering Biden as well as Senators Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar.
In an interview on MSNBC, Biden said he did not know if Clyburn would endorse him. “I hope so,” he said, adding: “He’s the single most important endorsement.”
Biden, who delivered lackluster finishes in both Iowa and New Hampshire, is projected to finish second in Nevada, where the votes from Saturday’s caucuses were still being tabulated.
A win in South Carolina is crucial for the former vice president, whose campaign told supporters after the New Hampshire primary that he would not be able to remain in the race if he did not secure a win in the Southern state.
Senator Bernie Sanders scored an overwhelming victory in Nevada, the second consecutive state he has won in the state-by-state Democratic nominating contest to select a challenger to Republican President Donald Trump in the November election.
Sanders’ strong finish has stoked further concerns among some Democrats that since he is the most liberal candidate, he will have a difficult time beating Trump.
Clyburn told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that he expected to announce his endorsement on Wednesday. He has appeared at Biden events in the past.
He also cast doubt on whether Sanders would receive his backing.
“I think that Bernie Sanders brings a lot to the table for people to consider,” Clyburn said. “Anybody who refers to themselves as a democratic socialist, that word has always had really dire consequences throughout South Carolina.”
Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt and Ginger Gibson; Additional reporting by Katanga Johnson; Editing by Christian Schmollinger and Peter Cooney