Picking between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in the 2008 presidential primaries was a ticklish matter for ambitious Democrats in Washington. Those who plumped for Obama had no reason to regret it when he snatched the party nomination and then the White House. He owed them – and by then she didn’t matter. But what if she runs again in 2016, and wins?
It’s not certain yet. But take the cover of the latest Time magazine, with a woman’s trouser-suited leg and a miniature man clinging to her heel. “Can Anyone Stop Hillary?” it asks. Still, if she does end up in the highest office in the land all that will be a distant memory, won’t it? Well, no, possibly not. She keeps records.
A new book due out next month alleges that in 2008 Clinton campaign aides compiled a record of all those who had distinguished themselves in her eyes either by staying with her through the whole frantic primary season or by doing the opposite and endorsing Mr Obama over her. It even measures degrees of treachery, scoring members of Congress from one for the most loyal to her cause to seven for the ones who publicly forsook her.
“We wanted to have a record of who endorsed us and who didn’t and of those who endorsed us, who went the extra mile and who was just kind of there,” a member of the 2008 team told Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes, who co-wrote HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton.
Democrats on the blacklist
Democrats on the blacklist
1/5 Ted Kennedy
The late senior senator from Massachusetts died in 2009 and can come to no harm from the Clintons now. That he is scored a seven is no surprise. Ted, the book says, 'had slashed Hillary most cruelly of all, delivering a pivotal endorsement speech for Obama just before the Super Tuesday primaries that cast her as yesterday's news and Obama as the rightful heir to Camelot'.
2/5 Chris Van Hollen
A congressman from Maryland, he was chairman of the party's campaign committee in 2008 and, as was proper, didn't take sides until he calculated Obama had all the delegates he need. His sin seems to have been that he committed to Obama one day before Clinton formally conceded. Still, last week he professed to be perplexed to be on the list: 'It's a mystery to me,' he said.
3/5 John Kerry
Then the junior senator from Massachusetts, Kerry carried weight because he had been the party's flag-bearer in 2004. Since then he has had to step into Clinton's shoes as her successor at the State Department. 'Secretary Clinton's advice and guidance were both generous and insightful as he transitioned into his role as Secretary of State,' a spokesman insisted.
4/5 Claire McCaskill
A senator for Missouri – an important bellwether state – McCaskill was already in bad odour with Clinton when the primary battle began. Still, there may have been some expectation from the Clinton camp that the senator would have forgotten old wounds and declared herself for Clinton if only out of gender solidarity. Instead she became the first female senator to ditch her.
5/5 Jay Rockefeller
A veteran senator from West Virginia, Rockefeller might have been expected to follow the lead of Democrats in his state who gave Clinton an easy victory in their primary. But in February 2008, he declared himself firmly for Obama, citing the then Illinois senator's opposition to the Iraq War. His endorsement helped blunt Clinton's claim that Obama had no foreign policy credentials.
It is a “for-me and against-me” database that both she and the former President Bill Clinton have had to hand ever since. And they will have it still if she runs in two years.
“The spreadsheet was a necessity of modern political warfare,” the authors write. “It meant that when asks rolled in, she and Bill would have at their fingertips all the information needed to make a quick decision – including extenuating, mitigating and amplifying factors – so that friends could be rewarded and enemies punished.”
The seven-point, outright treachery scorers include the late Ted Kennedy, whose endorsement of Mr Obama just before Super Tuesday in 2008 did so much to propel him forward. Another is John Kerry, now Secretary of State, who also embraced Mr Obama at a pivotal moment in the primaries, declaring it was time to “turn a new page in American politics” – a statement that seemed to imply Mrs Clinton was already beyond her sell-by date.
The point of keeping tally was to ensure “that the acts of the sinners and saints would never be forgotten,” the authors say in the book. “There was a special circle of Clinton hell reserved for people who had endorsed Obama or stayed on the fence after Bill and Hillary had raised money for them, appointed them to a political post or written a recommendation to ice their kid’s application to an elite school.”