Some of the most important critics of the Clintons during the 2008 campaign, instrumental in helping Barack Obama win the Democratic primary, are now openly praising the ex-president and former first lady, suggesting Obama’s network may enthusiastically embrace Hillary Clinton if she runs in 2016.
David Axelrod, one of Obama’s top advisers in both of his campaigns and a sharp critic of the Clintons in 2008, has all but endorsed Hillary Clinton for president, telling National Journal earlier this year that she is in a “very, very strong position” and “first among equals” if she chooses to run in 2016. Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, who was a key endorser of Obama in 2008, recently became the most prominent official currently serving in government to join Ready for Hillary, a group trying to draft the former secretary of state for a White House run. McCaskill had once said President Clinton was “a great leader, but I don’t want my daughter near him.”
Now, Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, perhaps the most influential black Democrat in Congress, is downplaying any tensions with the Clintons. In 2008, he told the New York Times there was an almost “unanimous” view among African-Americans that the Clintons “were “committed to doing everything they possibly can to damage Obama to a point that he could never win.”
“I’m as comfortable with Hillary as with Joe Biden. I’m very comfortable with both of them, love both of them,” Clyburn said in an interview with theGrio. He added of 2008, “I don’t think there was anything to forgive.”
To be sure, these three views don’t reflect a consensus among Democrats. It’s not clear if Clinton is running or what prominent Democrats, including Biden, would choose to run against her.
But tensions between Obama and Hillary Clinton were eased soon after the 2008 primary, and the president himself gave her a very positive send-off when she left the State Department, sitting down for a 60 Minutes interview in which he enthusiastically praised Clinton.
If other Obama supporters like Axelrod continue to praise Clinton, it will make it difficult for other Democratic contenders, even the sitting vice president, to find an opening to compete against her.
Follow Perry Bacon Jr. on Twitter at @perrybaconjr