Feb. 6, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Examining Bill Clinton's Endorsement Record

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - As President Bill Clinton gears up for his Democratic National Convention speech, it is hard not to notice that the former commander in chief's support for President Barack Obama has become one of the most closely documented facets of the campaign.

But during the past year, Clinton has also involved himself in a number of House Democratic primaries, often taking sides in Member-vs.-Member contests generated by redistricting.

On this front, Clinton has a mixed record.

The former president is credited with making the difference for some of the candidates he endorsed in competitive primaries. But there were other races where his popularity and political prowess proved ineffectual.

However, Clinton did not appear to calculate a candidate's viability when deciding whether to jump into a Democratic primary. Rather, those he endorsed had in common the quality of previously demonstrating loyalty to him and his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Loyalty is the political quality the Clintons appreciate most, their allies say.

"He values it," close Clinton ally James Carville said in an interview. "And if you helped his wife, he will help you. . He's pretty up-front about it."

In Member-vs.-Member Democratic primaries, the effect of Clinton's endorsement was particularly acute.

Those who backed Hillary Rodham Clinton over Obama in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary found that they had an ally in Bill Clinton in 2012. Others, who went with Obama, saw that the popular ex-president actively working against them, often to devastating effect.

"I don't know if it's retribution," Carville said. "I think it's like, 'There are so many things I can do, and I chose do it for the people who've helped me.' I think it's pretty straight-up."

In several of the races, the candidates Clinton endorsed were able to overcome structural disadvantages to pull ahead on primary day.

Candidates used the Clinton endorsement in every way imaginable - highlighting the nod in radio and television advertisements, robocalls and direct mail. On occasion, the timing of his endorsement altered the trajectory of a race.

But in other instances, Clinton's endorsement amounted to nothing, with the candidates he backed losing - in some cases big. As the primary season winds to close, Clinton had an even record: four wins, four losses and one outstanding race.

Arizona's 9th: Aug. 28
Endorsed Candidate: Andrei Cherny
Ties to Clinton: Former White House staffer

This was the primary where Clinton's support did not translate to a win when it might have.

Cherny was in a dogfight with two other Democratic stars in the race for this newly drawn tossup district.

Clinton endorsed in July, and Cherny advertised that endorsement to Democratic voters in every way possible.

In the end, EMILY's List-backed former state Sen. Kyrsten Sinema and state Senate Minority Leader David Schapira were stronger, and Cherny finished in third place.

Minnesota's 8th: Aug. 14
Endorsed Candidate: Former state Sen. Tarryl Clark
Ties to Clinton: Endorsed Clinton during the 2008 Democratic presidential primary

comments powered by Disqus




Want Roll Call on your doorstep?