Clinton vows to work closely with Democrats

Haiyun Jiang

Hillary Clinton vowed Wednesday to launch a 50-state strategy and coordinate closely with congressional Democrats as they seek to gain House and Senate seats in November.

Capitol Hill Democrats have long criticized President Obama for what they consider his failure to communicate with them on policy and strategy, and Clinton seems intent on taking a different approach.

{mosads}In a much-watched meeting with House Democrats in the Capitol, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee stressed the importance of uniting after a hard-fought primary against Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) while promising “close coordination” with her allies in Congress. 

“The first thing she said this morning was: ‘This is not just about me; this is about us,’” Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), head of the Democrats’ campaign messaging arm, said afterward.

That message, Israel added, was music to the ears of House Democrats, who have often felt left in the dark by the Obama White House. 

“That message is so resonant with my colleagues,” Israel said. “To hear that is not only refreshing, but energizing.”

Clinton was largely preaching to the choir, as the vast majority of House Democrats have endorsed her bid; even some Sanders supporters have jumped to her camp in recent days. 

But there remains a lingering concern among Democratic leaders and strategists that a significant chunk of the young and otherwise disenchanted voters who flocked to Sanders’s outsider image and populist message won’t support Clinton in November — concerns heightened by a new Bloomberg poll, released Wednesday, that found only 55 percent of Sanders’s backers plan to vote for Clinton and 22 percent intend to flip parties and support Trump.

“That is a problem for the party,” said Rep. James Clyburn (S.C.), the third-ranking House Democrat. “I would love to see Mr. Sanders endorse [Clinton], go all in, and I think he will. 

“Everybody must be comfortable with their own timetable,” Clyburn added. “It may be he wants to do it at the [Democratic National Convention] — whatever it is.”

Clinton has a lock on delegates, and Sanders on Wednesday acknowledged — in the clearest terms to date — that his campaign is all but over.

“It doesn’t appear that I’m going to be the nominee,” he told C-SPAN.

Still, Sanders has not endorsed Clinton, raising some concerns about prolonging the party’s unity push. He’s vowed to take his campaign all the way to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia at the end of July, if only to satisfy his millions of supporters and shape the party’s platform.

Sanders was not in the audience during Clinton’s visit to the Capitol on Wednesday, but she nonetheless seemed to be delivering a message to him.

“She did talk about what she did in 2008, when we had a closer election than we do now, and many of her supporters were urging her to fight against President Obama,” Israel said, relaying Clinton’s message. 

“She just realized that she had to put her party and her country above personality. And she had to work very hard to convince her supporters to support President Obama. But that worked out for everybody.”  

Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said Clinton spoke directly about her relationship with Sanders, emphasizing the campaign conflicts were never personal and the two candidates are now working together to draft a platform guiding the party into the election.

“[She said] it was not a personal campaign against him,” Butterfield said, “that it was a constructive policy debate.”

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), chairman of the panel charged with drafting the party platform, said the effort “to meld the positions” of Clinton and Sanders is “coming along very good so far.” 

“It seems as if we’re going to reach an agreement, hopefully by Saturday afternoon,” he said.

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said Clinton singled out several states she thinks “are very significant in her pathway to victory,” including Ohio, North Carolina and Georgia.

Another House Democrat in attendance added Arizona to that list of traditionally red-leaning states that Clinton sees as within reach. And all Democrats are increasingly convinced that presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump’s incendiary message on the campaign trail will play to their favor.

“She’ll get women, she’ll get minorities, she’ll get labor, because they know what’s at risk if she’s not successful,” Thompson said.

Heading into the convention, there’s been intense controversy surrounding the role of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) atop the Democratic National Committee. Sanders and his supporters have accused her of rigging the primary in favor of Clinton, and Sanders has said recently that Wasserman Schultz should be replaced as a step toward unification ahead of November. 

Clinton did not address the controversy in Wednesday’s meeting, according to several attendees.

She also largely avoided questions about her potential vice presidential running mate — with the exception of one incident.

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) got light ribbing over recent reports that he’s on Clinton’s VP shortlist.

After Becerra offered Clinton a glass of water, Caucus Vice Chairman Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) joked, “You’re really working it, huh, Xavier?”

The quip drew laughter from Democrats in the room, including Clinton.

Clinton, who was escorted into Wednesday’s meeting by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), exchanged greetings with reporters but did not respond to questions. 

She left Washington after the gathering, en route to Raleigh, N.C.

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