By Josephine Hearn
It may be more than two years until the 2008 election, but it’s not too early for some Democratic presidential hopefuls to begin courting the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) in the hopes of currying favor among African-American voters.
Three would-be candidates planned to drop in last week on the CBC’s annual legislative conference, a four-day political networking event that draws thousands of politically active African-Americans to the capital.
Although wooing the black vote is a perennial activity for those vying for the Democratic nomination, it is even more important after national Democrats decided last month to schedule an earlier primary date in South Carolina, a state with a large black population. The move was designed specifically to give African-Americans more say in the nominating process.
At the CBC’s conference last week, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), the 2004 nominee and a candidate now experienced in building support among black leaders, spoke Thursday at an event on minority-owned small businesses.
Former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner (D) attended the conference’s awards dinner and VIP reception Saturday night, and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D) would have spoken on a panel Thursday had he not been forced to travel overseas at the last minute, his spokesman said.
A yearly event resembling a “church revival,” in the words of Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), the 36-year-old legislative conference has been de rigueur for Democratic presidential candidates, with some of the most savvy attending two years in advance of the election. Kerry and former Rep. Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.) came in 2002. Then-Vice President Al Gore spoke in 1998, accompanying then-President Clinton, who made an appearance every year of his presidency.