Hillary Clinton won the backing of U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, South Carolina’s most prominent Democrat on Friday.
“My heart has been with Hillary Clinton since day one,” Clyburn said at the announcement at Allen University, a historically black college in Columbia.
“I want to do everything I can to help Hillary Clinton crack the ultimate glass ceiling.”
The 12-term congressman and South Carolina’s lone Democrat in Congress said he's had a chance to work "up close and personal" with both Clinton and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Both, Clyburn added, have been "pleasant and enjoyable.”
But “the future of the Democratic Party and the United States of America will be best served with the experience and know how of Hillary Clinton” the the next president, he said.
Clyburn had said he would remain neutral in race, but he changed his mind after he was encouraged by family, friends and constituents to weigh in.
Waiting until Friday also was important, he said.
Clyburn said he wanted to protect the state from losing it’s status as the first-in-the-South Democratic primary state.
"I was told by many of the candidates that if I got overly involved, they would stay away from the state. That's why I waited until now. I did not want to get out here too early and have candidates using my involvement as an excuse not to engage in South Carolina."
Clinton’s campaign is hoping for a boost ahead of the state’s Feb. 27 primary. African-American voters are expected to cast more than half the ballots in the primary.
The Republican National Committee said the endorsement was an effort to “circle the wagons” as her campaign is dogged by probes into her use of a private email server while secretary of state.
On Saturday, Clinton and Sanders face off in what has become a hotly contested race in Nevada, where Clinton’s lead has narrowed to within three points.
Of the Nevada race, Clyburn said he has campaigned for friends there, “some of whom urged me to come forward now expressing that it may help them in Nevada – I certainly hope so,” he said.
His endorsement, which The State reported Thursday, also offers a bookend to an incident between Clyburn and former President Bill Clinton in the 2008 campaign, when the former president called Clyburn upset after his wife lost the state primary.
Clyburn said Friday that he and Bill Clinton have interacted many times since then, and “spouses are support their spouses .... so I hold no ill will at all about Bill Clinton being active on behalf of his wife. That is the way it should be.”