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James Clyburn: Newt Gingrich Won With ‘Familiar’ Rhetoric

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo

House Assistant Minority Leader James Clyburn said Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich won the South Carolina primary by using language that people are “familiar with here in the South.”

In an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” today, the South Carolina Democrat compared Gingrich’s description of Barack Obama as the “food-stamp president” to Ronald Reagan’s criticism of “welfare queens.”

“People know what that means,” he said.

Still, Clyburn was careful not to say that he thinks Gingrich is racist, although he seemed to say some voters are.

“I never used that word, and I never call anybody anything that resembles that,” he said. “I’m saying that he’s appealing to an element in his party that will see President Obama as different from all other presidents that we’ve had. There’s only one thing that makes him different.”

Appearing on the same show, Gingrich said that Clyburn’s criticism was wrong.

“I think it’s unfortunate that liberal leaders, whatever their ethnic background, can’t have an honest, open debate about policies that fail,” the former Speaker said.

He added that more whites than blacks receive food stamps and called for a debate about government economic policies, again saying the choice is between a “paycheck president” and a “food-stamp president.”

“Liberals shouldn’t get away with hiding from the consequence of their bad policies by yelling racism,” he said.

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