South Carolina Dem Harpootlian backs Sanders

Story highlights

  • Richard Harpootlian, a former South Carolina Democratic Party chairman, said the Vermont senator reminds him of President Barack Obama
  • Harpootlian said he made the decision after talking with Sanders by phone last week

Washington (CNN)Richard Harpootlian, a former South Carolina Democratic Party chairman known for his sharp tongue, endorsed Bernie Sanders on Wednesday, saying the Vermont senator reminds him of President Barack Obama.

Harpootlian said he made the decision after talking with Sanders by phone last week. He said Sanders' passion reminded him of the kind Obama exuded in 2007 when they first met.
"You sort of say, 'Well, can he do it?'" Harpootlian said. "It's like 2007, when I met Barack Obama fully intending to support Hillary Clinton. And after a half hour with him he convinced me, not convinced me so much as I saw a passion in him."
However, he admits he never expected to endorse Clinton in the primary. He said that "her bumper sticker ought to be 'It's my turn.'" Harpootlian has had a contentious relationship with the Clintons and consistently urged Vice President Joe Biden to enter the race.
South Carolina will likely be a pivotal state for Sanders and Clinton, showing whether she can fend off his momentum coming off their virtual tie in Iowa and his sizable polling lead in New Hampshire. Harpootlian was optimistic that Iowa improved Sanders; chances in the Palmetto State.
"Iowa shows that he can play, especially with folks under 30," he said.
Clinton campaign staff did not comment on Harpootlian's endorsement, but pointed out a raft of endorsements for her there -- including the backing of former Govs. Jim Hodges and Dick Riley, and dozens of state lawmakers and local officials.