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Influential South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn Endorses Clinton

South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn, the top ranking African-American in Congress, endorsed Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign on Friday.

Clyburn, one of the state's most influential Democratic lawmakers, has traditionally remained neutral ahead of the South Carolina Democratic primary. But he announced at a news conference he has "decided to terminate my neutrality and get engaged."

"My heart had always been with Hillary Clinton, but my head had me in a neutral corner," Clyburn said.

The endorsement could prove influential ahead of the Palmetto State's Democratic primary on Feb. 27, where Clinton already holds a 28-point lead, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll. The former secretary of state is doing especially well among African-American voters in the state.

Clyburn said Clinton is "far and away the best choice" to fight for criminal justice reform and protect voting rights.

"I believe that the future of the Democratic party and United States of America will be best served with the experience and knowhow of Hillary Clinton as 45th president," he said.

Clyburn remained neutral in the 2008 primary battle between Clinton and then-Sen. Barack Obama, though he was critical of what he deemed racially charged language from Bill Clinton about his wife's opponent. In Clyburn's memoir, he wrote that Bill Clinton called him at 2 a.m. and shouted, "If you bastards want a fight, you damn well will get one."

The congressman said he has interacted with the former president several times over the past eight years and holds "no ill will" against his efforts on behalf of his wife.