Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Tauscher shifts to pro-Obama stance

Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo, came out strong and early for former Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton, a close personal friend and political ally.

But Clinton's loss will not dampen her enthusiasm for presumed nominee Sen. Barack Obama, a man she has met only twice and talked to once. As a superdelegate to the party's national convention in Denver in August, Tauscher says she will vote for Obama.

"Growing up, I never expected that I would even meet a president or know people running for president," she said via telephone between votes in Washington. "I don't have to have a personal relationship with someone to support him or her for president."

Obama and Clinton, U.S. senators from Illinois and New York respectively, have nearly identical views on the key policies her constituents care about such as universal health care, bringing home troops from Iraq and "keeping a roof over their heads," Tauscher said.

"It has not been an intellectual policy exercise to shift over to Obama," she added. "My support for Sen. Clinton, by and large, was because of our strong personal relationship."

Tauscher's congressional neighbors, Reps. George Miller of Martinez and Barbara Lee of Oakland, endorsed Obama early in the primary season while Reps. Jerry McNerney of Pleasanton and Pete Stark of Fremont waited until after the Illinois senator secured the votes for the nomination.

Tauscher, a strong fund-raiser expected Advertisementto easily win re-election November, likely will serve as a valuable link in Obama's Bay Area operation. The heavily Democratic Bay Area has historically proven itself a rich source of campaign dollars needed to fight in battleground states.

Tauscher has already been contacted by the Obama campaign and has appeared on Fox News' "Fox and Friends" talk show as a surrogate for the senator.

It is unlikely that Tauscher will suffer politically for backing a losing candidate or switching her allegiance.

Clinton has substantial support in California, where she won among Democrats in February statewide by 8 percentage points and in Tauscher's district by 3 points.

More important, said San Francisco State professor Joseph Tuman, Tauscher is a pragmatic politician who knows the party must rally behind its nominee as it heads into the election against the presumed GOP candidate, Arizona Sen. John McCain.

"Tauscher declared her support for Obama after Clinton withdrew and after Clinton urged her supporters to get behind him," Tuman said. "Tauscher would hardly be in trouble for following Clinton's directions."

Tauscher, like her other close friend and Clinton supporter, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, also thinks Clinton deserves serious consideration as Obama's running mate.

"It was a photo finish," said Tauscher, referring to the protracted primary season that took the two candidates all the way to the end before a winner emerged. "If you look toward the electoral map and the have-to-have states and the kind of coalition that our party needs to build "... Clinton has a very strong mandate from key components of the base."

That includes older women and Latinos, she said.

"Sen. Clinton got 18 million votes and I do think she brings a lot to the ticket, but this is Sen. Obama's decision," Tauscher said. "He has to think not only about the skill set that will round out his skills and experience but also the electoral map strategy his campaign needs to put together."

Tauscher has more on her plate than the election of a Democratic president.

As leader of the moderate New Democrat Coalition, Tauscher is busy raising money to help colleagues facing elections in November and either maintain the party's numbers or produce gains in the House of Representatives.

The coalition has raised $1.3 million but is involved in 35 races, Tauscher said. About 14 are high-profile seats in districts that lean Republican.

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