Who's to blame for the race politics?

One leading Democrat says it's ... Mike Huckabee.

Published January 25, 2008 3:31PM (EST)

Who injected racial politics into the Democratic presidential race in South Carolina? Well, it was Mike Huckabee, of course.

So says South Carolina Democratic Rep. James Clyburn.

On MSNBC Friday morning, Joe Scarborough noted that race has taken "center stage" in the run-up to the South Carolina primary, then asked Clyburn: "Do you think the scars of what's been said over the past week will continue, or do you think we can move beyond this?"

Clyburn's response: "Well, I hope we can get beyond that. But, you know, Joe -- I don't want to sound disingenuous here -- but, you know, we were doing well with this whole issue. Coming out of New Hampshire, [Barack] Obama had the support of both of the congresspeople from New Hampshire, both of whom are white, one male, one female.

"And it was not until Huckabee sort of brought the Confederate battle flag into this thing. Nobody had been talking about that. And I'll guarantee you that people recoiled when he did. You remember, not only did he talk about the flag in a disparaging way, but he talked about what the people of Arkansas would do with the pole of the flag for anybody that messed with it. That's the kind of stuff that brought this back into this campaign. It was not here until he did that."

Huckabee said what he said about the Confederate flag and where he'd put the pole on Jan. 18. On Jan. 11 -- which is to say, a week before that -- the New York Times reported that Clyburn was rethinking his plan to remain neutral in the South Carolina primary because he thought the Clintons had been insufficiently respectful of the civil rights movement.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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2008 Elections Barack Obama Hillary Rodham Clinton Mike Huckabee War Room