Meet the ‘People Formerly Mad at Hillary Club’

Some of the Democrats who betrayed Clinton in 2008 are the ones most eager to support her now.

CENTURY CITY, CA - JUNE 19: Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is honored at Public Counsel's William O. Douglas Dinner at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza on June 19, 2014 in Century City, California. (Photo by Angela Weiss/Getty Images)
National Journal
Alex Seitz-Wald
June 23, 2014, 5:30 p.m.

The Clin­tons are in­fam­ous for hold­ing a grudge, and with Hil­lary look­ing like a pro­hib­it­ive front-run­ner for the party’s pres­id­en­tial nom­in­a­tion in 2016, prom­in­ent Demo­crats who sup­por­ted Barack Obama in 2008 are ra­cing to settle their debts now and make their sup­port for Clin­ton known early.

And it’s not just run-of-the-mill Obama sup­port­ers, but the ones whose sup­port for the young in­sur­gent in 2008 felt like ma­jor be­tray­als to the Clin­tons. In their book HRC, journ­al­ists Jonath­an Al­len and Amie Parnes de­tail how one of the last acts of the de­feated Clin­ton cam­paign was to fi­nal­ize a “hit list” of Demo­crats who were dis­loy­al, with the de­gree of treach­ery ranked from one to sev­en.

And there’s an al­most per­fectly in­verse cor­rel­a­tion between the sever­ity of the blow dealt to Clin­ton in 2008 and the quick­ness and eager­ness of Demo­crat­ic VI­Ps to back her now — the worse the knock then, the big­ger and earli­er the boost now. Some star­ted more than two years be­fore the Iowa caucuses are held in early 2016.

To be fair, much of this is likely genu­ine, as Clin­ton has much more ex­per­i­ence today than she did in the middle of 2006, and she is in a stronger po­s­i­tion polit­ic­ally. One long­time Clin­ton friend, who broke with the couple and is now re­turn­ing to the fold, joked that he should start the “People Formerly Mad at Hil­lary Club.” But much of it may be driv­en by a de­sire to avoid re­main­ing an en­emy to someone who could soon oc­cupy the White House.

Here are some of the Clin­ton be­tray­ers who are now be­hind Clin­ton 2016:

  • Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id — CRIME: Secretly ad­vising Obama to run for pres­id­ent against Clin­ton in 2006, ac­cord­ing to journ­al­ists John Heile­mann and Mark Halper­in in their book Game Change. PEN­ANCE: While Re­id hasn’t form­ally en­dorsed Clin­ton, he told the PBS News­hour in Decem­ber that if elec­ted pres­id­ent, she’d “handle things prob­ably even bet­ter” than her hus­band. In Novem­ber, he said, “Hil­lary Clin­ton may have a big­ger fan than Harry Re­id; I just don’t know who it would be.”
  • House Minor­ity Lead­er Nancy Pelosi — CRIME: Secretly sup­port­ing Obama, earn­ing a re­buke from Clin­ton donors. PEN­ANCE: Pelosi hasn’t en­dorsed either, but she told USA Today that if Clin­ton runs, “she would win” and that “she’d be the best-pre­pared per­son to enter the White House in dec­ades, with all due re­spect to her hus­band, present com­pany, and oth­er pres­id­ents.”
  • Sen. Chuck Schu­mer — CRIME: Secretly ur­ging Obama to run, des­pite be­ing from the same state as Clin­ton, per Game Change. PEN­ANCE: En­dors­ing Clin­ton in Novem­ber, say­ing 2016 is her time.
  • Sen. Claire Mc­Caskill — CRIME: Mc­Caskill be­came par­tic­u­larly loathed in Clin­ton­land for pub­licly sup­port­ing Obama early and say­ing of Bill Clin­ton, “I think he’s been a great lead­er but I don’t want my daugh­ter near him.” PEN­ANCE: Be­com­ing the first sit­ting mem­ber of Con­gress to en­dorse Ready for Hil­lary, the pro-Clin­ton su­per PAC, in June 2013 and help­ing it raise money.
  • Sen. Tim Kaine — CRIME: Giv­ing Obama a key boost as the first gov­ernor out­side of his home state to en­dorse him. PEN­ANCE: Writ­ing an op-ed and giv­ing a speech in the early primary state of South Car­o­lina to an­nounce that he’ll be one of the first sen­at­ors to en­dorse Ready for Hil­lary.
  • Kennedy Fam­ily — CRIME: The late Sen. Ed­ward Kennedy’s de­fec­tion to Obama was a par­tic­u­larly pain­ful blow to the Clin­tons, who have a long re­la­tion­ship with the dis­tin­guished fam­ily. PEN­ANCE: Car­oline Kennedy, now the U.S. am­bas­sad­or to Ja­pan, made a big splash when she en­dorsed Clin­ton in April.
  • Rep. John Lewis — CRIME: The civil-rights icon switched his sup­port from Clin­ton to Obama in 2008, which es­pe­cially stung Bill. PEN­ANCE: Lewis paid a vis­it to a Costco in North­ern Vir­gin­ia this month where Clin­ton was sign­ing books to urge her to run.
  • Sen. Dick Durbin — CRIME: The No. 2 Sen­ate Demo­crat backed Obama over Clin­ton. PEN­ANCE: Host­ing a Ready for Hil­lary fun­draiser and en­dors­ing the group.
  • Sen. Bar­bara Box­er — CRIME: Secretly ur­ging Obama to run. PEN­ANCE: Privately ur­ging Clin­ton to run. Box­er or­gan­ized a let­ter, later made pub­lic, signed by all 16 Demo­crat­ic wo­men in the Sen­ate ur­ging Clin­ton to run in 2016. She’s also help­ing Ready for Hil­lary.
  • Rep. Jim Mor­an — CRIME: Privately prom­ising he’d sup­port Hil­lary, only to re­cant and sup­port Obama. Also, say­ing he’d like to punch Bill Clin­ton in the nose. PEN­ANCE: The re­tir­ing con­gress­man says he’s now a strong sup­port­er of the Clin­tons and that “they have for­giv­en me far faster than I would have.”
  • Rep. Chris Van Hol­len — CRIME: The former chair­man of the Demo­crat­ic Con­gres­sion­al Cam­paign Com­mit­tee told MS­N­BC in Janu­ary that he wasn’t sure why he earned a sev­en rat­ing on the hit list. PEN­ANCE: He con­tin­ued, “I’m a huge sup­port­er of Hil­lary Clin­ton.”¦ I’ve in­dic­ated that I would be a sup­port­er of Hil­lary Clin­ton if she runs.”
  • Rep. Robert An­drews — CRIME: An­drews said in 2008 that Clin­ton’s cam­paign has “ra­cial over­tones that in­deed dis­turb me.” PEN­ANCE: An­drews, who re­cently re­tired, told The Hill, “I will fully and en­thu­si­ast­ic­ally sup­port Sec­ret­ary Clin­ton if, as I hope, she is a can­did­ate for pres­id­ent in 2016.”
  • Hol­ly­wood — CRIME: Many of Los Angeles’s largest Demo­crat­ic donors went in for Obama early, neut­ral­iz­ing one of Clin­ton’s biggest ad­vant­age over the re­l­at­ively un­known sen­at­or. PEN­ANCE: Su­per donor Jef­frey Katzen­berg per­son­ally as­sured Clin­ton he’d sup­port her, if she runs. Dav­id Gef­fen, an­oth­er key Obama boost­er, is also on board, as are a Who’s Who of the town’s donors.

The list goes on, from loc­al county party chair­men and act­iv­ists in New Hamp­shire and Iowa to back­bench con­gress­men, donors, polit­ic­al strategists, and even former pres­id­ents to whom Clin­ton is not mar­ried.

In fact, the sup­port from the party’s bold names is so close to uni­ver­sal that it would be dif­fi­cult for a Barack Obama to find any trac­tion among Demo­crat­ic lead­er­ship.

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