Majority House Whip Says He's "crazy About Bill Richardson"

U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, the majority whip in the House of Representatives, is charged with pulling and keeping together his Democrats for key votes. It turns out he will also be at the heart of the Democratic presidential fight. His endorsement carries a lot of weight in South Carolina.

"Clyburn does not have a machine," says Jack Bass, professor at the College of Charleston, but he does have the "Jim Clyburn Network"-a group of civic and religious organizations with regional influence. Yet his endorsement hasn't been a silver bullet. In 2004, he initially backed former Rep. Dick Gephardt, who dropped out before the South Carolina primary, and then backed Sen. John Kerry, who was soundly beaten there by Sen. John Edwards.

Still, Clyburn's receiving a constant flow of presidential suitors. He says he is staying out of the endorsement sweepstakes-"at least at this point, anyway"-but admits that "I'm crazy about Bill Richardson," the New Mexico governor. "I have a closer personal relationship with [him] than any other of the candidates." Still, he won't commit. "I'm not going to tell you. I'm not going to tell my wife." Jim Clyburn is still, after all, managing people.

By Silla Brush