A tightly fought congressional primary in New Jersey is pitting President Barack Obama against former President Bill Clinton.
Democrats Rep. Steve Rothman and Rep. Bill Pascrell, who have both served eight terms in the House of Representatives are battling it out for the nomination for the ninth district seat in the Garden State.
Obama on Friday signaled support for Rothman by meeting with him at the White House, reports The Hill
. On the same day, Clinton was due to appear at a rally in Paterson with Pascrell, whom he has endorsed. Pascrell, 75, endorsed former first lady Hillary Clinton during the 2008 presidential primary.
A White House spokesman told The Hill that Obama's meeting with Rothman should not be construed as an endorsement — but that’s not how Rothman sees it. “The president invited me to the Oval Office to express his support. One doesn’t invite oneself,” he said. And top Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod told reporters earlier this monththat, “I believe, and the president believes, that ‘loyalty’ is an important word in politics, and Steve stood with us when it was hard.”
Rothman, 59, was the only New Jersey Democratic lawmaker to endorse Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, according to the Washington Post. “I think it’s fair to say that he was not unmindful that appearing with me as we walked along the White House colonnade in full view of the entire White House press corps might very well make into the New Jersey newspapers,” Rothman said after his White House meeting, the Post reported.
The two opponents are friends and used to ride the train together to Washington, according to the Post. They now face each other because New Jersey is losing one of its 13 House seats and a redrawn congressional map split up Rothman’s turf between Pascrell’s district and an area represented by Republican Rep. Scott Garrett.
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