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New Jersey: Steven Rothman Notes Past Loyalty to President Bill Clinton

Rep. Steven Rothman (above) picked up support from senior Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Rep. Steven Rothman (above) picked up support from senior Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

WOOD-RIDGE, N.J. —Rep. Steven Rothman isn’t losing sleep over President Bill Clinton and the possibility that he might endorse Rep. Bill Pascrell in the contentious Democratic primary.

It has been widely noted that the 2008 Democratic presidential primary has come back to haunt several House candidates who backed now-President Barack Obama over then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, as did Rothman. The former president, in some cases to devastating effect, has waded into redistricting-generated Member-vs.-Member Democratic primaries on behalf of the individual who backed his wife for president in 2008.

But Rothman, now embroiled in a bitter primary with 2008 Clinton-backer Pascrell, points to a loyalty to the former president that goes back a decade before 2008, when his political survival was on the line. Rothman emphasized his “very strong defense of him when I was on the House Judiciary Committee during the impeachment proceedings” in explaining why he doesn’t fear Clinton or expect him to get involved in this race.

“I spoke consistently day after day and night after night in defense of President Clinton, pointing out that the president’s behavior did not constitute a ground for impeachment,” he said. “It was neither treason nor bribery or a high crime or misdemeanor, and thus not deserving of impeachment or removal.”

“Day after day, night after night, not only in committee, but on a variety of cable news shows,” he said of his support for Clinton in 1998. “Night after night after night, explaining my constitutional defense of the president to the American people.”

Over the past few months, President Bill Clinton has had a pattern of aiding past loyalists. Tracing Clinton’s support to party fissures from the 2008 nomination fight are easy and could easily apply to this race. Pascrell was a Hillary Rodham Clinton man in the  2008 Democratic nomination fight, while Rothman was an early and ardent backer of Obama.

Both Pascrell and Rothman are  claiming the moral high ground in party politics and ideology. Part of Rothman’s case is that he was with Obama before it was an easy choice for a Democrat in the face of the Clintons’ party dominance. His homepage goes so far as to splash a photo of him with Obama from several years ago.

It could be politically risky given Bill Clinton’s modus operandi this cycle.

The winner of this primary should win the general election in the fall. Roll Call rates this seat as Safe Democratic.

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