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Family ties? Clinton endorsed Pascrell in N.J. primary to help wife become president in 2016, says Matthews

Former President Bill Clinton threw his weight behind Democratic Rep.

Former President Bill Clinton threw his weight behind Democratic Rep. Bill Pascrell in New Jersey's bitter Democratic primary as a way of helping his wife become president in 2016, argued Hardball host Chris Matthews. 

Clinton endorsed Pascrell, who backed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the 2008 presidential primary. Meanwhile, Obama—who stopped just short of a full-throttled endorsement—sent top adviser David Axelrod to the Garden State to endorse Pascrell's rival, fellow Democratic congressman Steve Rothman.

Rothman backed Obama in 2008.

"I have a sense...that [Bill Clinton] is clearing the field for Hillary," Matthews insisted during an interview with Pascrell, who won on Tuesday night.

"He doesn't want anyone to come in testing the water and running against her. He wants to say to his spouse 'you run'...because there won't be any Democrat getting in your way," he added, implying that a run for Congress was Rothman's way of "testing the waters."

Hillary Clinton, who will be 69 years old by the next presidential election cycle, has said she has no interest in the position and wants to spend time with friends and family.  Pascrell said he didn't believe the former president was motivated by his wife's potential run, but added "we could not have a better candidate in 2016 if she wants to run."

A race in California between two Democratic incumbents, Rep. Howard Berman and Brad Sherman,  has also been framed in the national press as a Clinton-Obama feud. The former president is backing Sherman, who endorsed Hillary Clinton in 2008. Berman, who appeared at a recent fundraiser with the president, backed Obama.