Hillary Clinton on Saturday will formally collect the long-expected endorsement of Jeanne Shaheen, New Hampshire’s popular senator and former governor.
Shaheen’s is just the latest endorsement Clinton has received in recent days in key presidential states as her campaign makes a show of flexing its muscles in light of troubling poll numbers and a potential run by Vice President Joe Biden.
At the Democratic National Committee’s summer meeting in Minneapolis Friday, senior Clinton campaign officials, many of whom are veterans of Democratic campaigns, stalked the halls and worked the floor of the meeting to lock down support from the so-called super delegates who play an outsized roll in party nominations. On Thursday night, Clinton’s team held a well-attended reception for DNC members who had already pledged support.
Her campaign has been keeping close track of endorsements, with staffers reporting to headquarters daily on their progress. The campaign can publicly roll out endorsements when they need to. Hours before the Democratic presidential candidates spoke, word leaked that Clinton’s campaign claimed to have already locked down 440 delegates – nearly a fifth of the total she would need to secure the nomination.
Clinton has long been the Democratic Party establishment’s clear choice for 2016, but the flurry of endorsements and activity in the past week has sent a signal to potential rivals that there is little room for them.
“Secretary Clinton’s people have been talking to these folks for a very very long time, so she has a huge advantage over us in that respect,” Sen. Bernie Sanders told reporters after speaking to Democrats in Minneapolis.
Last week, Clinton left her ritzy vacation rental in the Hamptons to campaign in Ohio with the state’s popular former governor and then to Iowa to campaign with that state’s popular former governor. This week, she added the New Hampshire event to her schedule. And she recently announced the endorsement of two former governors of South Carolina, another key presidential state.
Clinton’s campaign has also stepped up its deployment of leading Democrats to campaign on her behalf, and some have even been challenging Sanders directly. Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin, a favorite of liberals, spent Monday campaigning for Clinton in Iowa.
And Rep. Joaquin Castro campaigned for Clinton the state this weekend, where he said that Sanders has not done enough to reach out to Latino lawmakers and voters. Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy campaigned for Clinton in New Hampshire last week and took a shot at Sanders on guns, where Sanders is seen as having a weak record. And Clinton has even deployed Sanders’ own governor, Vermont’s Peter Shumlin, to campaign on her behalf in New Hampshire.
Shaheen’s endorsement, like the others, is hardly unexpected. The senator’s husband, Bill, was Clinton’s New Hampshire co-chair in 2008 and several of Clinton’s staffers in the state this year are alumni of Shaheen’s political operation.
It all comes at time when Sanders has surged in the polls to within striking distance of Clinton in Iowa and New Hampshire, and Biden is considering a run that would likely focus on South Carolina.
“This is really about how you put the numbers together to secure the nomination,” Clinton told reporters in Minneapolis. “As some of you might recall, in 2008 I got a lot of votes but I didn’t get enough delegates. And so I think it’s understandable that my focus is going to be on delegates as well as votes this time.”
While super delegates can change their vote at any time, the difficulty in overcoming Clinton’s advantage was clear at the DNC meeting.
“People will say to me, ‘we like you, we agree with a lot of your ideas, but can you win?’” Sanders told msnbc Friday.
There was no palpable groundswell for Biden at the meeting with hundreds of Democrats, even as staffers with the super PAC Draft Biden tried to entice delegates with chocolate bars to come to their 23rd floor suite for a presentation on the vice president.
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, who has endorsed Clinton, dismissed concern about Clinton’s strength in light of controversy over her private email server. “Democrats are always a party of handwringingers,” she said.
She also suggested Biden would have a difficult time gaining traction this late in the race. “Everybody in this room absolutely loves him,” she said. “But you have to have infrastructure, you have to have money.”