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Posted at 12:16 p.m. on May 4, 2012
Updated 2:36 p.m. | President Bill Clinton has done it again.
Today he announced he is backing Rep. Bill Pascrell (D) over fellow Democratic Rep. Steven Rothman in their New Jersey primary. This is the third Member-vs.-Member race the former president has waded into — and in each case he has backed the lawmaker who supported his wife in the 2008 presidential race.
“I know Bill Pascrell, and he is the fighter we need to support President [Barack] Obama,” Clinton said in a statement released by the Pascrell campaign. “Bill helped write President Obama’s health care law, he’s a leader protecting and strengthening Social Security and Medicare, and he never stops fighting for the middle class. Nothing is more important to Bill than creating jobs in New Jersey. I saw that in the eight years we worked together to build unprecedented prosperity for America. We can’t afford to lose his ideas, energy and experience just when they’re needed most.”
Pascrell was a Hillary Rodham Clinton loyalist in the 2008 Democratic presidential fight, while Rothman was an early supporter of Obama. In the current campaign, Rothman has been running on that decision.
As late as Tuesday, Rothman exhibited confidence that Bill Clinton would not get involved in the race, citing his own loyalty to the former president during his impeachment trial in the late 1990s.
A Clinton endorsement can be a game changer in a Democratic primary, especially when leveraged effectively in robocalls and TV ads. The former president’s endorsement was a huge boon this cycle to businessman John Delaney in Maryland’s 6th district and Pennsylvania Rep. Mark Critz in his Member-vs.-Member primary with Rep. Jason Altmire. Both men won their respective primaries, with Delaney aided by Clinton robocalls and Critz highlighting the Clinton seal of approval in a TV ad. Clinton has also written a letter in support of Rep. Brad Sherman, who is facing off against fellow Rep. Howard Berman in California. Sherman was also a supporter of Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2008.
The race between Rothman and Pascrell will be decided June 5. The winner of the primary is all but certain to be elected in November.
Updated 2:36 p.m.
Rothman responded to the endorsement with a statement this afternoon.
“While I have great respect for Bill and Hillary Clinton, five years ago I endorsed Barack Obama for president and served as his campaign’s Northeast Co-Chair because I believed then, as I believe now, that he was the right choice for progressive Democrats,” he said. “This election will be won by the candidate who most shares the Democratic Party’s ideals and values. … That’s why I will win this race.”