COLUMBIA, S.C. – Sen. Joseph Biden, a Democratic presidential hopeful joining fellow Sen. Christopher Dodd at Martin Luther King Jr. holiday events, said Monday he thinks the Confederate flag should be kept off South Carolina's Statehouse grounds.
"If I were a state legislator, I'd vote for it to move off the grounds — out of the state," the Delaware senator said before the civil rights group held a march and rally at the Statehouse here to support its boycott of the state.
In Chicago, Sen. Barack Obama, also prominently mentioned in speculation about the White House sweepstakes in 2008, was a hit at a Rainbow/PUSH Coalition breakfast honoring King, even if he didn't deliver what much of the crowd clearly wanted: a declaration that he will run for president.
Obama received a standing ovation at the annual King scholarship breakfast when the Rev. Jesse Jackson introduced him with an approving reference to the Illinois Democrat's presidential aspirations.
"It's a long, nonstop line between the march in Selma in 1965 and the inauguration in Washington in 2009," said Jackson, the coalition's founder and a one-time presidential candidate himself.
Later, in an address at a King remembrance service at St. Mark's Church in suburban Harvey, Obama said: "I'm not making news today. I'm not here to make news. There will be a time for that."
More than six years after the Confederate flag was taken down from the South Carolina Capitol dome, its location in front of the Statehouse remains an issue at the heart of events celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy.
Jim Hanks stood across from the Statehouse with about 35 Confederate flag supporters.
"We love this flag. We love our heritage," said Hanks, of Lexington.
Some carried signs saying: "South Carolina does not want Chris Dodd," referring to the Connecticut senator who, along with Biden, attended the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People rally at the Statehouse.
Hanks said that Dodd, Biden and other Democrats running for president "would probably say most anything if it would get them votes."
In 2000, as the NAACP began its South Carolina tourism boycott, the flag was flying on the Capitol dome and in House and Senate chambers. Legislators agreed to take the flag down that year, but raised the banner outside the Statehouse beside a Confederate soldiers monument.
In November, Biden joked about South Carolina's Confederate past at a Rotary Club meeting in Columbia after organizers said their Christmas party at the Department of Archives and History would include a chance to see the state's original copy of the Articles of Secession.
Biden noted Delaware was "a slave state that fought beside the North. That's only because we couldn't figure out how to get to the South — there were a couple of other states in the way."
Biden expects legislators here will eventually move the flag. Pointing to his heart, he said, "as people become more and more aware of what it means to African-Americans here, this is only a matter of time."
On Sunday, Dodd told The Associated Press at a King remembrance service in Greenville that the Confederate flag belongs in a museum.
"I don't think it belongs on the Capitol grounds," Dodd said.
Obama said thinking of the slain civil rights leader's life was humbling, and added: "I've gotten a little attention lately, but the fact of the matter is all I do is stand on the shoulders of others."
He noted that King was six years younger than he is now when he was assassinated in 1968 at age 39.
"Whatever challenges we face are nothing like the challenges our parents and grandparents faced," Obama said. "The torch has been passed to this generation, but we haven't always taken it up. ... We have much more work to do."
The crowd enthusiastically applauded and cheered his remarks.
The first-term senator has gained national attention since 2005 when he was sworn into office. He recently has made appearances in key primary states and according to several Democrats, he also has hired policy, research and press staff for a campaign to be run from Chicago.
On CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday, Obama said he'll announce a decision about whether to launch a presidential bid "fairly soon."