Obama '08 backers embrace Clinton

Early supporters of Barack Obama in 2008 are embracing the prospects of a Hillary Clinton run in 2016.

Several House Democrats who endorsed Obama over Clinton in the 2008 primary said that all signs point to widespread Democratic support for a second presidential bid for the former secretary of State.

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One of Obama’s earliest supporters, Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.), said that if Clinton chooses to run, she wouldl be the favorite.

“If Hillary were to enter the race, that she would be the prohibitive favorite [to win the nomination] ... and I don't think you'd find any Democrat that would see it differently at this point. Now there's questions about whether she will enter the race. But that's a separate question,” Fattah said in an interview.

Fattah’s sentiments come on the heels of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) contention that Democrats are coalescing behind a Clinton candidacy.

Pelosi recently told USA Today, "There's a great deal of excitement about the prospect that she would run. I don't know why she wouldn't run. She's prepared. She's well-known. She's highly respected. She knows she could do the job very, very well.”

Even though Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings (D) told The Hill that he would be inclined to support his state’s governor, Martin O’Malley, in 2016, he said there’s “no doubt” the party is getting behind a Clinton bid. Cummings backed Obama over Clinton five years ago.

Another early Obama backer, Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.), said he “hopes” Vice President Biden will stay out of the race if Clinton decides to run.

“If she doesn’t run, then it would be a loss for the nation,” he said.

“I think she'd make a great president of the United States because she's ready to go on day one. I'm with her 100 percent. I think she'd be a marvelous president because she's tested already; she has broad support in Democratic circles,” Gutiérrez said.

Still, there are some who are less convinced that Democratic support for Clinton is as abundant within the party as Pelosi stated.

Asked if he agreed with the House minority leader’s assessment, Rep. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.) said, “No, because she hasn't offered herself up as a candidate, and I don't know but a handful of Democrats who are part of the 'Draft Hillary.'"

Clay, who endorsed Obama in 2008, added that he would hold off support until viable candidates enter the contest.

The Missouri Democrat said, “I'm not enthused about anybody until they step out there and say they are a candidate for president of the United States ... I’m not in the business of begging people to run for an office, OK?”

Officially, Pelosi remained neutral in the 2008 Democratic primary, though several of her Democratic colleagues indicated that she was backing Obama’s candidacy behind-the-scenes.

Longtime San Francisco Chronicle reporter Marc Sandalow explained that the California Democratic lawmaker would have done so with a shrewd political eye toward electing the most number of Democrats to Congress possible.

At that time, the charismatic figure was Obama, who helped House and Senate Democrats significantly expand their majorities.

 In 2016, Clinton might prove to be the leader of the party.

“[Pelosi's] No. 1 calculation for presidential politics will be: What will help the Democratic Party. In 2008, that meant at a certain point, Barack Obama. I think she thought he had more coattails ... and the same would be true going forward — she looks at the field now; she's thinking who at the top of the ticket can help the most Democrats from district to district across the country: that's Hillary Clinton,” said Sandalow, author of "Madam Speaker: Nancy Pelosi's Life, Times, and Rise to Power."

Pelosi upset a number of Clinton backers in March of 2008 during the height of the presidential primaries when she suggested that the party's “superdelegates” should not determine the Democratic nominee.

At that time, more than 20 Clinton donors threatened to stop giving to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Some of those same Clinton fundraisers have joined together to form a super-PAC to draft Hillary for the 2016 presidential race.

The group, “Ready for Hillary,” is aiming to gather 300,000 supporters in its effort to lay “the groundwork by assembling an army of grassroots Hillary supporters and building an organization to support her potential candidacy” to convince Clinton to run again.

Since January, the group has attracted more than 290,000 “likes” on Facebook.

“Ready for Hillary” garnered a powerful backer last week when early Obama supporter, Democratic Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill endorsed the cause, saying in a statement: “It’s important that we start early, building a grassroots army from the ground up, and effectively using the tools of the Internet — all things that President Obama did so successfully — so that if Hillary does decide to run, we’ll be ready to help her win.”

Fattah cites the Pelosi and McCaskill's backing as key signs that if Clinton jumped into the race, others such as Biden would stay out of the primary. Polls show that Clinton is dominating the possible Democratic field.

“I think that the signals are if Hillary runs, that you would not see a major contested primary. And if she doesn't, then you would have, I think, a fairly robust field of candidates which could include Joe Biden or not include Joe Biden,” Fattah said.