WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was endorsed by the Congressional Black Caucus on Thursday, a much-needed boost to her campaign as it competes for the important black voting bloc in South Carolina's primary this month.
Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, have built strong ties to the African-American community over the past decades.
Several lawmakers cited Clinton's long history of not only working on issues important to black Americans, but on getting Democrats elected and advancing the party's agenda.
"Mrs Clinton has demonstrated her leadership skills. She has laboured in various capacities all of her adult life and now she is ready to serve our country by occupying the highest office in our country," said US Representative G.K. Butterfield.
The group's backing will be important as Clinton seeks to recover from Tuesday's stinging loss to US Senator Bernie Sanders in the New Hampshire primary.
Black voters make up a large bloc in the Democratic primary in South Carolina and will be increasingly significant to the Democrats as the presidential contest moves from Iowa and New Hampshire to more demographically diverse states.
The Congressional Black Caucus Political Action Committee planned to send a dozen members to South Carolina to campaign for Clinton over the weekend in advance of the state's Feb 27 Democratic primary.
Sanders, fresh off his victory in New Hampshire, had breakfast on Wednesday with one of America's most prominent civil rights activists, Reverend Al Sharpton, recognising the need to broaden his base to mount a long-term challenge to Clinton.
US Representative James Clyburn, an influential African American from South Carolina, declined to make a personal endorsement before the caucus announcement in Washington.
Appearing on CNN on Thursday morning, Clyburn praised Sanders' voting record and had no criticism of the US senator from Vermont.
But his comments suggested he was leaning towards Clinton, whom he credited with significant contributions to issues important to black Americans, particularly universal access to health care and children's issues.
Butterfield was more pointed in alluding to Sanders, who promises universal health care and free college tuition.
"We need a president who doesn't simply campaign and just promise wonderful things but things that are politically impossible to achieve," he said at the caucus announcement.