The co-chair of Barack Obama’s 2008 New Hampshire presidential primary campaign Jim Demers, who is hosting a fundraiser featuring Vice President Joe Biden later this month, endorsed Hillary Clinton for president on Up with Steve Kornacki Sunday.
“I’m one who’s ready for Hillary as well,” Demers told Kornacki Sunday morning. “In ’08, when I made my decision, it wasn’t that I didn’t like Hillary Clinton, but I really was caught up with how impressive Barack Obama was, and I thought he was the right guy for the time. And I think myself and a lot of people, particularly in New Hampshire, think that now’s the time for Hillary Clinton.”
Demers was the first New Hampshire Democratic operative to endorse then-Senator Barack Obama for president in 2006, even before Obama had announced his candidacy. Demers was one of four co-chairs of Obama’s New Hampshire campaign, and was the subject of an attack against Obama by then-Senator Clinton in the final New Hampshire debate before the primary, in which Clinton defeated Obama by three points.
Demers said today that Clinton’s comments were about the issue of Obama’s pledge not to take money from federal lobbyists or from federal political action committees, and did not take the attack personally. “I never interpreted it as a direct attack on me,” said Demers, pointing out he was a state lobbyist. “I never did any federal lobbying.”
Demers is hosting a fundraiser headlined by Vice President Biden for New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan on August 22. Raising money for New Hampshire candidates is a requisite for presidential primary contenders, but the fact that the host of his upcoming event has thrown his weight behind Clinton indicates the uphill battle Biden faces. Governor Hassan herself was a prominent Clinton supporter in 2008, and from Demers’ interactions, many Democrats at the fundraiser are likely to be Clinton supporters as well.
“I haven’t found one Democratic activist who I’ve spoken with who hasn’t said they’re going to be with Hillary Clinton,” Demers said.
Up with Steve Kornacki also spoke with several other prominent New Hampshire and Iowa Democratic activists and party insiders about their views of the next Democratic presidential race.
Paul Twomey, Barack Obama’s New Hampshire state legal counsel in 2008 and 2012 and a member of his 2008 steering committee, told Up that, if Clinton runs, he will be in her camp. “I would support her over anyone else, including the vice president,” said Twomey.
Obama 2008 New Hampshire co-chair Ned Helms likes both the former secretary of state and the vice president, but expects that the race will settle itself before New Hampshire. “I really do think it’s highly unlikely that people will have to make a decision between Biden and Hillary Clinton,” said Helms. “And I think people are hoping they don’t have to do that. [Clinton] is clearly in a very dominant position.”
Even close friends and supporters of Biden realize the tough road he’d face in a primary fight. Former Iowa State Senator Tony Bisignano of Des Moines, a member of Biden’s 2008 Iowa steering committee, said he’d support a Biden run out of personal friendship but acknowledged the current political realities.
“I think it’s Hillary Clinton’s time,” Bisignano told Up on Friday. The Iowa activist also said he was contacted as soon as Biden decided to run in the 2008 cycle, but has not heard anything from his team as of yet. “I think it is early and the vice president is a very personal friend of mine, but I’ve had no contact with the vice president or his staff in regards to him running,” said Bisignano.
Terri Goodman, another longtime Biden friend and Iowa supporter, would back a Biden run but acknowledges the obstacles he’d face. “As far as Joe’s concerned, I think he’s acutely aware of the challenges ahead and he’s a student of history,” said Goodman, former Dubuque County Democratic County Chair and steering committee member of Biden’s 1988 and 2008 Iowa campaigns. “There are challenges inherent in running against someone who could be the first woman president.”
Roxanna Moritza, also a member of Biden’s 2008 Iowa steering committee, is not ready commit to any candidate. “I’m going to wait and see,” she said, noting the unforeseeable issues that have shaped presidential elections in the past, like the Iraq War and the economic crash of the 2008 cycle.
But as Demers said Sunday on Up, New Hampshire and Iowa have rarely seen potential candidates who have such long histories with the states’ voters.
“Look, nobody has the kind of relationships in New Hampshire that the Clintons and Joe Biden have. They come in with a huge advantage to be able to put together a campaign,” he said.