Book: Obama camp mulled dumping Joe Biden for Hillary Clinton
By: Jose DelReal and Byron Tau
October 31, 2013 06:45 PM EDT
Top Barack Obama campaign aides considered replacing Vice President Joe Biden with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the 2012 Democratic ticket, going so far as to test the shake up in polls and focus groups, according to a new book.
The bombshell details are revealed in “Double Down: Game Change 2012,” by journalists Mark Halperin and John Heilemann — a copy of which was obtained by POLITICO on Thursday.
Top Obama aides Jim Messina, David Plouffe and then-White House chief of staff Bill Daley all used Obama campaign focus and polling groups to determine whether there was any political advantage to replacing Biden with Clinton.
Daley, in particular, was a major proponent of the idea, and in an interview with the Times he confirmed that he had considered the idea. A copy of the book was obtained by The New York Times, which reported the news first on Thursday.
Ultimately, the idea was dropped when it was determined there would be no significant advantage in the polls by replacing Biden with Clinton.
Both authors report that relations between Obama and Biden were sometimes difficult from the very beginning of the Obama administration.
During the 2008 campaign, Obama sniped: “How many times is Biden going to say something stupid.” Biden was also hurt by a quote Obama gave to a reporter where the president said it not surprising that he didn’t recall a particular Biden quote.
According to Halperin and Heilemann, Biden saw the 2012 campaign as a way to expand his donor network and help develop the groundwork for a 2016 presidential campaign — something that rubbed Obama campaign and White House brass the wrong way.
In 2012, Biden even proposed drafting a pamphlet to voters to be distributed to voters nationwide to defend the administration’s record on the stimulus, the auto industry bailout and the health care reform law.
Biden pushed the idea constantly until David Axelrod, then serving as a top strategist to the 2012 campaign, said: “We’re not printing a couple million of anything and dropping it at people’s houses — okay?”
Other key revelations from the book:
- Cory Booker — then mayor from Newark, N.J. and serving as a top Obama surrogate — made his infamous “hostage video” of his own accord. After saying on “Meet the Press” that the Obama campaign’s rhetoric on private equity in general and Bain Capital in particular were “nauseating,” Obama’s campaign brass demanded an immediate apology. They asked Booker to issue a short statement walking his comments back. Instead of apologizing, Booker made a three-minute direct to camera video using his laptop. In it, he repeated much of what he said on the Sunday show in gentler words. The campaign was far from satisfied. Messina said he was “off the Cory Booker train forever.” Obama himself was irritating that Booker was playing to his donor base — the Wall Street and private equity crowd. Booker went on MSNBC days later and insisted that the Obama campaign asked him to do nothing.
- Michele Bachmann was so spooked that she was unable to deliver a key attack line against Rick Perry during the GOP primary. When the Texas governor jumped into the 2012 race, Bachmann’s aides planned a zinger that would gently mock the former Texas A&M yell leader. “From one former cheerleader to another, welcome to Iowa,” Bachmann, herself a former cheerleader, was supposed to say. But she was unable to deliver the line at an Iowa GOP function that Perry was also supposed to attend. But Bachmann refused to leave her bus, saying “I don’t want to be in the room with him.” Her staff lied to her and told her that Perry had left the event. When she saw the Texas governor, she froze with fear and moved out of his line of sight. She was barely able to finish her stump speech at the event. At the time, Bachmann was suffering from chronic, stress induced migraines. Only a hefty dose of drugs got her through the Ames debate.
- Jon Huntsman — who served as ambassador to China before jumping into the 2012 race — hosted political meetings while on the federal government’s payroll as an ambassador. Huntsman and his wife Mary Kaye interviewed strategists Jon Weaver and Nick Ayers while back in D.C. on a vacation from Beijing. Mary Kaye Huntsman had been in touch with Weaver from months, using the codeword “HE” to refer to her husband in emails that were political in nature, according to “Double Down.” Weaver took the meeting with the couple as a sign to move forward with the campaign, setting up a PAC while Huntsman continued to serve as ambassador. Federal law tightly controls what political activities federal employees can undertake.
- Obama called author Ron Suskind’s book “Confidence Men” a “piece of fiction.” According to Halperin and Heilemann, Obama reportedly said: “I went through that whole book. I don’t recognize myself.” In particular, Obama was furious that former top aide Anita Dunn had berated the White House as a sexist environment. “I just don’t understand why someone would say something like that,” Obama said.