President Clinton picked sides in a battle between two Democrats on Friday, backing Rep. Bill Pascrell over Rep. Steve Rothman in a redistricting-induced primary in New Jersey.
"I know Bill Pascrell, and he is the fighter we need to support President Obama,” Clinton said. "Bill helped write President Obama’s healthcare law, he’s a leader protecting and strengthening Social Security and Medicare, and he never stops fighting for the middle class."
Clinton insiders told The Hill that the former president wants to help those who helped his wife four years ago by campaigning on their behalf in 2012.
Clinton has already come to the aide of other Democrats who endorsed Hillary Clinton, including Rep. Mark Critz (Pa.) and Rep. Brad Sherman (Calif.). Both Critz and Sherman were pitted against fellow Democratic incumbents by redistricting, and Critz won his match-up.
"Nothing is more important to Bill than creating jobs in New Jersey," Clinton said in a statement. "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 told The Hill in April that he'd be glad to have Clinton's support, but wouldn't say whether he had reached out to request an endorsement.
“I’d love to have the endorsement of the president. I’d love to have the endorsement of Bill Clinton,” Pascrell said. “But it doesn’t tell us where the campaign is. I’m not going to depend on that.”
Rothman reacted to the endorsement by observing that despite his respect for the Clinton family, he endorsed Obama and served as a regional co-chair for his campaign "because I believed then, as I believe now, that he was the right choice for progressive Democrats."
"This election will be won by the candidate who most shares the Democratic Party’s ideals and values," said Rothman. "I’m the only candidate who is a consistent champion of progressive values like standing up for a woman’s right to choose and fighting for marriage equality."
New Jersey lost one congressional seat in 2011 due to slow population growth, and Rothman's district was dismantled and his home drawn into the district of Republican Rep. Scott Garrett (N.J.). Rothman opted to challenge Pascrell in a redrawn district split between Rothman's and Pascrell's former territories.
The primary is June 5.
- This post was updated at 3:25 p.m.