WASHINGTON – When Bernie Sanders was unexpectedly surging in the polls, the Hillary Clinton camp was worried about loosing home state Illinois in the March 2016 primary and was appealing to President Barack Obama for help, a newly released hacked email of Clinton campaign chair John Podesta reveals.
Polls were showing Sanders catching up to Clinton before the March 15 face-off in Illinois, prompting Clinton campaign chair John Podesta – who grew up in Chicago — to agree with a top Clinton ally that the White House needed to weigh in.
Even a “hint of support,” would be useful, Neera Tanden wrote to Podesta on March 12.
Tanden runs the Center for American Progress, a think-tank Podesta founded. Tanden also worked a stint in the Obama administration and was a natural bridge between the Clinton and Obama camps.
On the afternoon of March 12, Tanden wrote, “Can Obama even hint of support of Hillary before Tuesday? Really, just a directional nod would be helpful. Like if he just is asked a question or tweets an innuendo — how did he vote in the primary?
“Maybe they don’t want to do this, but the stakes are pretty damn high in this election for him. Though I don’t know how most people are going to take these clashes between Bernie supporters and Trump’s people,” Tanden wrote.
That was likely a reference to outbursts on March 11 between protestors and Donald Trump supporters at a rally at the University of Illinois at Chicago that Trump pulled out of because of the disruptions at the UIC Pavillion.
A few hours later, Podesta replied, “Why don’t you push [top presidential adviser] Valerie [Jarrett] a little bit.”
Podesta also was a senior counselor in the Obama White House and knows Jarrett, but apparently, at least in the email chain Wikileaks posted – was fine with Tanden pushing the Illinois ask.
Obama never jumped in the Illinois presidential primary and the results were close. Clinton won Illinois with 50.56 percent to Sanders’ 48.61 percent of the overall vote — the “beauty contest.” Of the 102 elected delegate spots in Illinois, Clinton won 52 and Sanders 50 — almost a tie.
However, Obama did take the highly unusual step of taking sides in an Illinois House primary, endorsing Juliana Stratton over incumbent Ken Dunkin for an Illinois House seat. Dunkin lost.
Obama signaled his backing for Tammy Duckworth over Andrea Zopp in their primary when Obama took Duckworth with him on Air Force One to Springfield on Feb. 10 when he delivered an address to the Illinois General Assembly.